Escarole and Meatball Soup, otherwise known as Italian Wedding Soup, is the perfect cold weather one pot meal!
I had originally set out to call this recipe Italian Wedding Soup, but I decided not to. I know that most of us refer to this soup as such but really, what is ltalian Wedding Soup?
First of all, how many of you have actually eaten this soup at an Italian wedding? I definitely have never eaten this at any wedding. Back in the old days we were served a bowl of stracciatella (egg drop soup) with acini di pepe pasta following the antipasto. But that has long been omitted from most Italian wedding menus.
Why is it called Italian wedding soup?
Let’s talk about the origins of this soup. There is in fact such a thing in Italy called minestra maritata which literally translates as “married soup”. The “married” part refers to the combination of greens (escarole, spinach, swiss chard or other) and meat with the addition of some type of pasta.
Somewhere along the way, minestra maritata was translated using the word “wedding” in order to refer to the marrying of the greens and meat. Therefore, it had nothing to do with weddings in the literal sense. Yet another North American adaptation of an Italian recipe. Fascinating, isn’t it?
How to make Escarole and Meatball Soup:
You will find the complete printable recipe at the bottom of this post. Here are step by step photos with explanation to guide you through this recipe.
Prepare the meatballs: In a large bowl combine ground meat trio (beef, veal and pork); an egg; a clove of garlic; fresh chopped parsley, dry breadcrumbs, grated Parmigiano cheese; and salt and pepper. Roll into small meatballs, approximately 1 inch in diameter, place on a sheet pan and set aside in the refrigerator.
For the soup: Heat olive in a large sauce pan and sauté an onion until softened. Stir in carrots, celery and garlic. Stir in tomato paste, add chopped escarole and cook until wilted.
Pour in chicken stock, bay leaves and bring to a boil. Add the prepared meatballs and let simmer for 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Bring back to a boil and add pasta. Cook until al dente. Remove and discard bay leaves. Serve hot with extra grated Parmigiano cheese at the table.
Tips and suggestions for making Escarole and Meatball soup:
What is a ground meat trio of beef, veal and pork?
In my local grocery store I can purchase a combined package of ground beef, veal and pork in approximately 450 gram (1 lb) packages. You may only use 1 type of ground meat or any combination of 2 types, if you prefer.
Can I substitute other greens?
Most recipes add spinach to this soup. I prefer escarole (which my mother always uses) as I like the way it holds it’s shape in the soup. But you can substitute with spinach if you prefer.
Is it ok to add raw meatballs to the broth?
I have been asked this question endless times and yes, it is definitely ok! The meatballs are quite small and will have plenty of time to cook thoroughly in the broth. They also add great flavor to the broth while cooking.
What type of pasta can I add to this soup?
I’m partial to using tubettini pasta in hearty vegetable soups such as this but any other small shaped pasta will do.
Whether you call this Italian Wedding Soup or Escarole and Meatball Soup as I do, you must try it! Tag me with your photos on Facebook or Instagram with #mangiabedda or @mangiabedda. Buon appetito!
Here are a few more hearty soups to warm you up!
- White Bean and Potato Soup
- Swiss Chard and White Bean Stew
- Pastina Soup with Tiny Meatballs
- Broccoli and Potato Soup with Pasta
- Pasta with Peas and Potatoes
- Italian Minestrone Soup
- Italian Lentils with Rice
For the meatballs:
- 500 grams ground beef, veal and pork trio (combined)
- 1 large egg
- 1 small garlic clove minced
- 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
- 1/2 tsp salt
- freshly ground pepper
For the soup:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion diced
- 2 carrots diced (1 1/2 cups)
- 2 celery stalks diced (1 1/2 cups)
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 5 cups escarole chopped (about 1/2 large head of escarole)
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup tubettini pasta or any small pasta
- salt as needed
- Parmigiano cheese for serving
To prepare the meatballs:
- In a large bowl add all the meatball ingredients and mix well. Roll into into meatballs approximately 1 inch. Set aside while you prepare the soup.
For the soup:
- Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan, add onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the tomato paste and mix well with the vegetables. Add the escarole and stir until wilted. Pour in the chicken stock and bay leaves and bring to a boil.
- When the soup comes to a boil, add the prepared meatballs. Lower to a simmer and cook with the lid on for 30 minutes.
- Remove the lid and stir in the pasta. Cook until the pasta is ready, according to the package instructions. Add salt and pepper as desired.
- Remove and discard the bay leaves before serving. Serve hot with Parmigiano cheese at the table.
- In my local grocery store I can purchase a combined package of ground beef, veal and pork in approximately 450 gram (1 lb) packages. You may only use 1 type of ground meat or any combination of 2 types, if you prefer.
- Most recipes add spinach to this soup. I prefer escarole (which my mother always uses) as I like the way it holds it's shape in the soup. But you can substitute with spinach if you prefer.
- It's perfectly fine to cook the raw meatballs in the broth. The meatballs are quite small and will have plenty of time to cook thoroughly in the broth. They also add great flavor to the broth while cooking.
- I'm partial to using tubettini pasta in hearty vegetable soups but any other small shaped pasta will do.