Italian Wedding Soup with Kale will have you celebrating soup season with tender, pillowy, and delicate pork meatballs floating in a light, bright broth. Packed with colorful vegetables and kissed by the umami of Parmigiano-Reggiano, this Italian-American dish is a classic for a reason.
Meatballs in general are just a universal comfort food. Whether they’re Baked Ricotta Meatballs floating in a rich tomato sauce or these mini pork and parmesan meatballs cooked in bubbling broth, they’re completely cozy and comforting. Unlike other types of meatballs that require baking or frying, these pint sized creations cook in the soup itself making this a dish perfect for any night of the week.
Why You’ll Adore This Recipe
- Meal Prep – Soup in general is a great dish to use as meal prep. The leftovers not only make for a quick and easy lunch or dinner, but they can also be frozen. Unlike many recipes that have you cook the pasta in the soup, the pasta is cooked separately. This prevents it from swelling and sucking up all of the broth from the soup.
- Customizable – You can customize the ingredients and consistency of this recipe. If you like a less brothy soup, either add more vegetables or less broth. Not a fan of pork? These pork and parmesan meatballs can also be made with ground turkey.
- Easy Process – This is almost a one pot meal. There’s no need to bake the meatballs as they simmer in the soup. The meatballs can all be formed ahead of time and then dropped into the simmering soup when ready.
- Familiar Flavors – This Italian wedding soup recipe gives you everything you love about the classic but with slightly different ingredients. Traditional beef meatballs are replaced with pork, and the classic spinach or escarole is replaced with hearty kale.
What is Italian Wedding Soup?
Despite its name, Italian wedding soup isn’t a dish typically served at weddings, or even completely Italian. The version that we know in America common to Italian-American restaurants gets its name and inspiration from minestra maritata.
The Italian dish is a peasant dish that marries meat, sometimes meatballs, sausage, boiled pork, or beef with bitter greens such as chicory, escarole, or kale. It’s about the marriage of ingredients and flavors and was a great way to stretch them out into a hearty and comforting meal. The Italian dish is typically served for Italian Easter, Christmas, and San Silvestro.
Ingredients for Italian Wedding Soup with Kale
Is there anything more fun than digging into a bowl of light and tender meatballs? Throw in pasta and flavorful vegetables, and you have a dish the entire family will love. Soup shouldn’t be complicated, from the process of making it to the ingredients needed to bring it together. Love carrots? Add more carrots. Not a fan of celery? Cut back on it or leave it out. Just don’t compromise on the freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Ground Pork – Ground pork is leaner than some varieties of ground beef while still delivering rich yet delicate flavor.
- Parmigiano-Reggiano – The rind is used to infuse flavor into the broth as it simmers while the shredded cheese helps bind the meatballs together while adding umami.
- Vegetables – Onions, celery, carrots, garlic, and kale all bring flavor and texture and give this soup an all-day cooked flavor without the work.
- Spices – Salt, crushed red pepper flakes, dried oregano, bay leaves, and garlic powder make the soup and meatballs completely savory.
- Fresh Herbs – Flat leaf parsley and basil are used to bring herbaceous freshness to the meatballs, the soup, and also the pasta.
- Pasta – Any small pasta will work for this recipe. Ditalini, orzo, acini di pepe, and fregula are all great options.
- Chicken Broth – Homemade is always best, but a good quality store bought broth works well.
- Acid – White wine gives a layer of brightness to the soup while a squeeze of lemon at the end wakes up all of the flavors. Don’t forget to serve wedges on the side!
How to Make Italian Wedding Soup with Kale
The most labor intensive part of this recipe is simply chopping the vegetables. Aside from the pasta, everything simmers in one pot. You can even prep the meatballs the night before and then drop them into your pot 10-15 minutes before serving.
- Mix your meatballs. Add all of your ingredients to a bowl and mix them until they’re just combined. Grating your onion not only allows the raw flavor to quickly cook out in the simmering broth but also keeps these meatballs moist.
- Cook a test patty. This is your chance to add any additional seasonings. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Form a small patty of your meatball mixture and allow it to cook through on both sides.
- Form your meatballs and chill. Because there are no breadcrumbs in these meatballs the mixture will be sticky. Use a teaspoon to help evenly portion out the pork mixture and roll them into meatballs. Place them on a baking sheet and allow them to refrigerate until you’re ready to add them to your soup. If they become too sticky to roll, wet your hands.
- Sauté your vegetables. Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat and add your olive oil. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and allow them to cook for 5-8 minutes until they start becoming tender. Add the garlic, crushed red pepper, dried oregano, and season with a pinch of salt. Cook for an additional couple of minutes.
- Deglaze. Add your white wine. Allow it to cook until it has mostly evaporated.
- Add your broth, bay leaves, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, and simmer. Cover your pot, leaving the lid slightly askew. Let it simmer until your vegetables are fork tender.
- Add your kale. Remove your parmesan rind and bay leaves and add the kale. Let it cook for 10 minutes until wilted.
- Add your meatballs. Carefully drop your meatballs into the soup. Allow them to cook for 10-15 minutes until they’re cooked through.
- Cook your pasta. While your meatballs are cooking boil your pasta according to the package directions. You can cook it in salted water or broth. Drain and toss with olive oil or butter, fresh parsley, and grated parmesan if desired.
- Serve it up! Squeeze in lemon and add your fresh herbs to the soup. To serve add some pasta to the bottom of your bowl. Top with the soup. Add fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, chopped basil and parsley, and a squeeze of lemon.
The combination of pork and greens just reminds me of the south, even in this Italian inspired dish. If pork isn’t part of your diet however, this same dish can be made with ground turkey in place of the pork. The measurements will be the same. I do recommend using a combination of ground white and dark meat, and not all white meat.
How to Store and Reheat Italian Wedding Soup
Because the pasta is cooked separately from the soup in this Italian wedding soup with pork meatballs recipe, it is easy to portion out the leftovers and either freeze them or refrigerate them for enjoying later in the week. Aways allow your soup to fully cool. If freezing transfer the soup to either freezer safe bags or containers. This soup will keep for up to two months in the freezer. If refrigerating transfer it to an airtight container. You can also transfer the pasta to a separate airtight container for refrigerating but I don’t recommend freezing the leftover pasta. The refrigerated soup and pasta will keep for five days.
To reheat your soup if frozen, allow it to defrost in the refrigerator overnight. Simply transfer it back to a Dutch oven or pot and warm it up over medium heat. You can also microwave the leftovers.
Tips From the Beach
Don’t skip the step of cooking your pasta separately. If you plan on serving this for another meal or leftovers, the pasta will not only become soggy, but it will also suck up all of the broth. Cooking the pasta separately also allows you to dress it with additional ingredients like fresh herbs and parmesan while letting you control the amount that goes into your bowl of soup.
Don’t toss that parmesan rind! It adds instant umami and depth of flavor to soups, stocks, and even Rustic Tomato Sauce. When you’re done with the cheese, just pop that rind into a freezer safe bag and keep it frozen until you need that instant boost of flavor.Print
Italian Wedding Soup with Kale
- Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
- Yield: 6-8 1x
Italian Wedding Soup with Kale will have you celebrating soup season with tender, pillowy, and delicate pork meatballs floating in a light, bright broth.
- 1 pound ground pork
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1/4 cup grated onion
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
- 1 egg whisked
Italian Wedding Soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 cup celery, chopped
- 1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 64 ounces chicken broth, add additional if you like it brothier
- 1 Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
- 2–3 bay leaves
- 1 bunch curly or Tuscan kale, stems removed and chopped
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup basil, chiffonade
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 pound small pasta such as ditalini cooked according to package directions for al dente
- Add all of your ingredients for the meatballs to a bowl. Mix until just combined.
- Heat a skillet over medium heat. Break off a small portion of the meatball mixture and form a patty. Cook both sides of the patty until it’s cooked through. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
- Use a teaspoon to portion out your meatballs and roll. Place on a baking sheet.
- Let your meatballs refrigerate while you prepare the rest of your soup. This portion can be done the day before.
- Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat with the olive oil.
- Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Season with a pinch of salt. Allow them to cook for 5-8 minutes until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are starting to soften.
- Add the garlic, crushed red pepper, and oregano. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the white wine and stir. Let it cook for 2-4 minutes until it has reduced.
- Add the broth, parmesan rind, and bay leaves. Bring the soup to a simmer and cover it, leaving it slightly askew.
- Let the soup cook for 30-45 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
- Remove the parmesan rind and bay leaves. Discard.
- Add the kale and cook for 10 minutes until it has wilted.
- Carefully add the meatballs. Let them cook for 10-15 minutes until they are cooked through. They will float to the top.
- Add the lemon juice and fresh herbs and stir to combine.
- To serve, add pasta to the bottom of the bowl. Ladle in the soup. Garnish with additional parmesan, fresh herbs, lemon, and diced onion if desired.
- You can boil the pasta in either salted water or chicken broth.
- Add a tablespoon of olive oil or butter to the pasta once drained. Toss with a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano if desired.
- This same recipe can be made with ground turkey.
- If you like your soup brothier, add additional broth.
- Prep Time: 20
- Cook Time: 75
- Category: Soup
- Method: Simmer
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: Italian wedding soup with kale, Italian wedding soup, wedding soup, minestra maritata