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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Beef barley soup recipe
- Shrimp chowder Thai-style
- Sausage and bean soup
- Vegetable bean and barley soup
- Red lentil vegetable soup
- French onion soup recipe (instant pot)
Or try this meatball marinara sub recipe if you have any leftover meatballs.
How to make this wedding soup recipe
Gather other soup ingredients: broth (not pictured), orzo, lemon, garlic, oil, shaved carrots, chopped onions and spinach.
Wedding Soup Recipe with Zest
- 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;
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.