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Wedding Soup Recipe with Zest

This Wedding Soup recipe is a delicious combination of meatballs, orzo, chicken broth and vegetables. A hearty, comforting meal-in-a-bowl, kicked up with lemon zest. 

Wedding soup did not actually originate at weddings, but it is, in fact, popular at Italian-American weddings. Whoever invented it, great job.  

Wedding Soup with zest in a bowl with bread and parmesan cheese on the side

There are tons of recipes for wedding soup out there, all pretty similar.  This one – a combination of many – has one unique feature – lemon zest. I find the zest totally brightens up the soup while still maintaining that yummy comfort food taste and feel.

You can, of course, adjust several of the ingredients to your taste and dietary preferences.  

The meatballs in the recipe are light and flavorful. I like to use dark meat ground chicken to make them extra juicy and tasty. Another good meatball option is our all-purpose Italian meatballs.  Or, if you have your own favorite meatball recipe, go ahead and use that instead.

Serve this easy Italian wedding soup with some hot crusty bread. Or as a starter before our 30-minute eggplant parmesan or creamy polenta with tomato herb salad


  • Buy frozen meatballs. Or, use homemade meatballs that you have stashed in the freezer. If you’re making meatballs for something else such as spaghetti and meat sauce, make some extra and freeze them (flash freeze on a baking sheet, then pile them into a sealed freezer bag, ready to use as needed)
  • Cook the meatballs in the soup. To save a couple of steps, you can drop the meatballs and pasta directly into the boiling broth without cooking them separately ahead of time.  Just cook them in the broth on medium-high for about 8-10 minutes.  I prefer baking the meatballs first to let the fat release onto the pan instead of the soup. And, cooking the pasta separately will reduce the starchiness in the soup.  If I’m in a rush, though, I just drop both in and the soup is still delicious – and a bit more meat-flavored.  Either way, the soup can be made in about 30 minutes as you can do a few steps simultaneously.

Tailor To Your Taste

Here are a number of variations you can try. 

  • Meatballs: Use any recipe or the one below. Meatballs can be chicken, pork or beef – or any combination.
  • Options for cooking the meatballs: fry them, bake them, or drop them directly in the soup to cook. All options are covered in the recipe. 
  • Spinach: try kale or escarole instead. Or, if you don’t have fresh spinach on hand, you can use frozen spinach, thawed and drained to yield about 1 cup.
  • Pasta: Use any tiny pasta. I love orzo and acini de pepe.
  • Other add-ins: Try adding chopped basil leaves; a cup of canned tomatoes, drained and chopped; chopped green onion;  Parmesan cheese; and/or finely diced celery.

Make Ahead 

  • I love this soup left over because the flavors blend even better over time. It can keep in the fridge for 4-5 days. If the noodles absorb too much broth, add additional broth when reheating.

Other hearty soup recipes you might like

All of these can either be served as starters or as meals in a bowl. 

Or try this meatball marinara sub recipe if you have any leftover meatballs.

How to make this wedding soup recipe

meatball mixture in bowl
Make a meatball mixture of ground chicken (or meat), breadcrumbs, egg, chopped herbs, grated onion.
uncooked meatballs on cutting board
Form into small meatballs.
fried meaballs in pan
Fry meatballs for a few minutes on each side. They will finish cooking in the soup. Alternatively, bake the meatballs.chopped spinach, shaved carrots, lemon, orzo, parmesan, onion

Gather other soup ingredients: broth (not pictured), orzo, lemon, garlic, oil, shaved carrots, chopped onions and spinach.

wedding soup in pot with ladle
Saute onions and garlic in a large pot. Add broth, carrots and orzo. Cook until tender. Add meatballs and spinach. Cook another 10 minutes. Finish with lemon zest.

wedding soup in a bowl beside loaf of bread



wedding soup in a bowl p

Wedding Soup with zest in a bowl ff
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Wedding Soup Recipe with Zest

Wedding Soup is a delicious combination of meatballs, orzo, chicken broth and vegetables that comes together for a hearty, comforting meal-in-a-bowl. This one is kicked up with lemon zest. 
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 6
Author: Cheryl


For meatballs

  • 1 pound ground beef, pork or chicken (or any combination)
  • 1/2 medium onion grated or finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped herbs (or 1 tbsp dried) parsley, oregano or basil
  • salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 - 1 tsp)
  • Optional: 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese;

For Soup

  • 2 teaspoon oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoon garlic about 2 garlic cloves
  • 8 cups Chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup dry orzo pasta (or acini de pepe pasta)
  • 1 large carrot, thinly shaved with a peeler then roughly chopped (or finely diced)
  • 6 cups 8 cups escarole or baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated from 1 lemon
  • Optional: 1/4-1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  • MAKE THE MEATBALLS: Combine ground meat, egg, breadcrumbs, onion, salt, pepper and Parmesan and basil if using. Mix lightly with clean hands until well combined. Form into mini meatballs (3/4-1 1/2 inches). Partially fry or bake meatballs. Note 1.
    °To fry: Heat non stick pan to medium high. Add a few drops of oil. Place meatballs in pan an fry for 2-3 minutes per side to brown. Do not overcrowd pan. Do in 2 batches if needed. Transfer to plate lined with a paper towel to absorb grease.
    °To bake: Heat oven to 425F. Place meatballs on parchment lined pan. Bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on size of meatballs. Transfer to plate lined with a paper towel to absorb grease.
  • ASSEMBLE THE SOUP AND SERVE: In a large pot, heat the oil on medium high. Add onions and saute for several minutes until fragrant and translucent. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Add the broth, orzo (Note 2) and carrots. Cook for 10 minutes carrots are softened and orzo is cooked. Add meatballs and spinach - and stir. Reduce heat to medium and cook for another 8-10 minutes. Add lemon zest. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Add Parmesan cheese if desired or pass it at the table. Serve in bowls with crusty warm bread on the side.


  1. Instead of baking the meatballs ahead, use a shortcut: Drop the meatballs and pasta directly into the boiling broth without cooking them separately ahead of time.  Just cook them in the broth on medium-high for about 8-10 minutes.  
  2. Cooking the orzo: To reduce the starch in the soup, you can cook the orzo (or other small) pasta separately. Then add the pasta to the soup along with the meatballs. 
  3. Make Ahead: The soup can keep in the fridge for 4-5 days. If the noodles absorb too much broth, add some more when reheating.
Nutritional value estimates do not include optional Parmesan cheese. 


Calories: 285kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 74mg | Sodium: 418mg | Potassium: 848mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 5020IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 78mg | Iron: 4mg
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