The most comforting soup you’ve never probably never heard of…Move over matzah ball, here comes the Italian penicillin of soup. This elevated chicken soup is totally cravable on a rainy or snowy day and will surely lift your spirits if you’re feeling under the weather. Comforting Italian Wedding Soup to the rescue.
No, you do not eat this soup on your wedding day, nor after completing your nuptials; the name instead stems from the Italian phrase minestra maritata or “married soup.” This refers to the perfect marriage of ingredients rather than the ceremony itself. And perfect they are!
Can you imagine a time in Italy before the tomato? This soup is thought to have originated at such a time in Naples when peasants would use left over bits of meat and had ample access to plenty of wild greens.
My version takes a basic chicken stock and adds vegetables, greens and tiny meatballs. Then add it over pastina and top it with parmesan cheese. The flavors truly are married together in perfect harmony.
What is pastina?
Commonly called pastina, pastini or pastine in the United States, there is no standard shape to this category of pasta, but rather, the terms refer to small shaped pasta in general. You may find star-shaped, tiny macaroni shapes or orzo – all of which are considered pastina and any will work for this recipe.
Minestra vs Minstrone Soup
These two soups are similar but different. Minstrone is usually vegetable based, meatless and thicker whereas, minestra is vegetable based, thinner and can have the addition of meat.
For this soup I prefer all beef meatballs, but you can certainly do 50% pork and 50% beef. Just make sure you keep them small. It’s tempting to try and roll them bigger, but smaller is best for this recipe.
Hope you have fun making this comforting soup. I always enjoy making a big batch and freezing it into portions to enjoy especially during the winter months.Print
Comforting Italian Wedding Soup
The perfect comfort food for a cold, rainy or snowy day. This elevated chicken soup with greens, pastina and tiny meatballs will be your new go-to if you’re feeling under the weather or when you need a cozy comfort meal.
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 2 hours
- Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
- Yield: 8–10 1x
- Category: soup
- Cuisine: Italian
Simple Chicken Stock
- 1 small whole chicken
- 3–5 carrots (can also add cleaned carrot top greens)
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 4–5 stalks of celery, including green leafy parts
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed whole
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp whole peppercorns
- water – enough to cover the entire chicken and all the vegetables buy about 2 inches
- 1 pound ground lean beef
- 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4 c panko breadcrumbs
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 T fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 whole egg, raw
- salt and pepper
- 2 cups peeled and diced carrots
- 2 cups diced celery ribs
- Pastina (orzo, star-shaped or other)
- Greens (spinach, kale or escarole)
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Add all ingredients to a large stock pot on the stove and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer (not boil) until chicken is cooked through, about 45 minutes -1 hour.
- Remove chicken and let cool.
- Strain broth from vegetable solids and discard solids, adding broth back to stock pot and let cool slightly. Skim off any chicken fats and oils. Pip Tip: you can store this broth in the refrigerator over night allowing fats to harden on top of broth and skim off before reheating and finishing the recipe.
- Once chicken is cool enough to handle, shred chicken and add to stock pot.
- While chicken stock is cooking prepare the meatballs by adding all ingredients together and mixing until combined.
- Form small meatballs about 2 T of beef for 1 ball. Form balls in the palm of your hands and place on a plate, make sure they don’t touch and stick together. Sit them in the fridge until broth is ready; strained and hot.
- Before you’re ready to add the meatballs to the broth, bring a large frying pan up to medium-high heat and add meatballs a few at a time in batches (giving room between them so they don’t touch) browning them on all sides. No need to cook them all the way through, just brown the outside and then add to the broth. Continue until all the meatballs are browned and added to the broth. They will finish cooking in the broth. Browning the meatballs is an optional step but does help them to hold together better while cooking.
- Add 1 T olive oil to skillet until hot, add carrots and celery and cook until slightly browned. Add to broth with shredded chicken.
- Add meatballs.
- Cook for 20-30 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.
- If using a hearty greens add them now and cook for 5-10 minutes.
- Salt to taste
Serve soup ladled over pastina (orzo or star shaped mini pasta) and greens (spinach, kale, or escarole) and top with your best grated parmesan cheese.
Pip Tip: Make ahead and freeze in individual or family sized portions. Good for 4 months.
Pip Tip: Do NOT add your pastina directly to your soup pot. Cook separately and store separately. If you freeze or store your pastina in your soup it will act like a sponge and soak up all your liquid.
Pip Tip: Spinach wilts fast. Add raw spinach and cooked pastina directly to your bowl and ladle over hot soup. It’s hot enough to wilt the spinach!
Pip Tip: Don’t skimp on the parmesan cheese. Splurge on a good quality cheese and it will make a big difference.
Keywords: Italian Wedding Soup, Chicken Soup, Meatballs, Comfort Food, Pastina, Italian Food, Soup, Spinach, Chicken Stock