A Healthy Italian Wedding Soup recipe, made with tender chicken meatballs, quinoa, kale & cannellini beans. This lightened-up Italian wedding soup gets an extra punch of flavor from lemon juice & lots of pesto, making it a cozy & comforting soup & fresh easy weeknight dinner all at once!
today’s the day! our FINAL recipe in plays well with butter’s soup month is here! & boy, oh boy, it’s a goooooooodie.
icymi…february always comes with cold weather & snow days here in minnesota, & this february has been one for the record books…literally. in an effort to keep things as feel-good & as cozy as possible here on pwwb this month, we’ve been celebrating all things soup. so far we’ve…
- talked about my FAVE hearty minestrone soup
- made my dear grandpa clarence’s famous hawaiian beef stew in the instant pot
- gave classic chicken tortilla soup a delicious weeknight makeover
- & made seriously easy 5-ingredient italian herb asiago no-knead bread, which just so happens to be perfect for dunking in today’s recipe…my lightened-up italian wedding soup!
a healthy italian wedding soup recipe: lightened up italian wedding soup with chicken meatballs
raise your hand if you feel me: seasonal changes seriously affect me.
it’s probably the billionth time i’ve said it, & i’m sure it’s not going to be the last. but man they affect me like crazy.
i have a sneaking suspicion it’s because the changing seasons here in minnesota are dramatic af – we’ll seriously have a full-blown 36-inches-of-snow snowstorm followed by the most gorgeous 70 degree weather in the course of a week.
but especially by the time march rolls around (this friday already, can you believe it?!), my body is confused. my body still craves cozy & warm comforting meals, but my mind is dreaming of the lighter, brighter, & fresher flavors of spring.
& this healthy italian wedding soup? it’s the perfect recipe to tide our bodies and our minds over until the warmer days of spring arrive.
i first made this healthy italian wedding soup recipe around this time last year, when we were visiting our friends ren & caleb in milwaukee. in very typical midwest fashion, our plans to head home after a gorgeous spring weekend were delayed thanks to an epic ice storm. & while i wasn’t about to complain about 2 extra days with a couple of our best friends, a full-blown ice storm just as spring starts to show its signs of an early arrival isn’t exactly a morale booster.
so i did what i do best: hopped in the kitchen & got cooking. something cozy & comforting enough to warm us up from the inside out, but light & bright enough to keep the promise of spring fresh in our minds.
& just like that…this healthy italian wedding soup recipe was born.
this healthy italian wedding soup doesn’t skimp on anything you love about the classic, but it’s a little brighter & a whole lot lighter. i’ve swapped out the traditional beef & pork meatballs with my favorite chicken meatballs (they’re super juicy & tender!) & they simmer away with the rest of the soup in a lemon-infused stock (it’s so good!). serve it with a generous spoonful of pesto (& maybe a fat glass of your fave white wine?!), & i’d call that the perfect cozy springtime dinner.
what is italian wedding soup made of? healthy italian wedding soup ingredients:
traditionally, italian wedding soup is served in a mild chicken broth, with a combination of beef & pork meatballs, a bitter green (like escarole or endives) & a small pasta (like orzo or cavatelli).
to lighten things up a little in this healthy italian wedding soup recipe, i add a few of my staple healthier ingredients (they’re still flavorful af, promise!) & add a couple of my favorite flavor bombs to really amp up the flavor without much effort. the full cast of characters includes…
- chicken meatballs
- cannellini beans
- onions, carrots, & celery
- fresh garlic & Italian seasoning
- lemon juice & pesto
- chicken stock
for this healthy italian wedding soup, i’ve swapped the traditional beef & pork meatballs with my absolute favorite chicken meatballs. these are not your average dry & boring chicken meatballs! they’re insanely juicy & tender, have an extra kick of flavor from italian seasoning, & serve as the base flavor of the soup since they’re browned right in the same pot that the soup simmers in.
i’ve also opted for quinoa over pasta in this healthy italian wedding soup. it still adds a little bulk without adding tons of extra starch, since the soup is already filled with cannellini beans. plus, unlike pasta, the quinoa can simmer right in the soup so no second pot is needed. easy clean up = check!
my favorite, favorite, favorite part of this healthy italian wedding soup, though, is the broth. it’s infused it with tons of garlic, italian seasoning, & some lemon juice. the flavors simmer away & intensify, making every single sip bright, bold, & flavorful.
how to make italian wedding soup
just like most of my other soup recipes, this healthy italian wedding soup is totally weeknight friendly, taking 45 minutes to cook up from start to finish. it couldn’t be easier to make! the full recipe is in the recipe card, below – here’s a quick rundown of the process!
- prep the meatballs. prepping & rolling out the meatballs takes up most of the active prep time in this recipe. if you’re meal prep savvy, you can also totally roll out your meatballs up to 3 days in advance, storing them in an airtight plastic container in the fridge til you’re ready to make soup.
- brown the meatballs, right in the same dutch oven or pot you plan to make your soup! this creates the base flavor for the soup, adding so much more flavor to the broth. a little patience will go a long way here: working in batches ensures the meatballs brown properly. browned meatballs = flavor.
- cook the aromatics, plain & simple. onions + carrots in a splash of olive oil, ‘til your kitchen smells like heaven.
- simmer. add the meatballs back into the pot with some chicken stock, a whole head of garlic, some quinoa, & a fresh squeeze of lemon juice to the pot. cover & simmer, letting the quinoa & meatballs cook & letting all the flavor of the lemon juice & garlic infuse the stock. good, good things are happening!
- serve! divide into bowls, & add my favorite ingredient: a dollop of pesto. it adds a bright, herbaceous punch of flavor to every single bite of soup, creating that can’t-stop-won’t-stop factor that keeps you going back in bite, after bite, after bite.
(& most importantly: don’t forget to pour yourself a big ol’ glass of white wine!)
can you freeze italian wedding soup?
Simply put: typically, no…but in this case, YES!
a traditional italian wedding soup, with pasta, is not something i’d recommend freezing, for reasons really similar to why i don’t suggest freezing my hearty minestrone soup. the pasta will drink up the extra broth in the soup, making for soggy pasta (sad!) & a nearly brothless soup (double sad!).
the good news: this healthy italian wedding soup doesn’t have any pasta to worry about! quinoa won’t drink up the broth the way pasta does, so you’ve got the green light from me to freeze for later. to freeze, let the soup cool to room temperature, then transfer into your favorite freezer-safe storage containers (i love jars like these!) & freeze for up to 3 months.
your future self will thank you big time, when you pull healthy italian wedding soup out of the freezer for the easiest dinner ever.
if you like making your italian wedding soup with pasta, i suggest preparing & storing the pasta separately from the soup. if you freeze the soup for later, simply cook up a fresh batch of pasta the night you want to have soup for dinner. easy peasy!
if you love this lightened-up italian wedding soup recipe, here are more soup recipes to try!
- another italian favorite: hearty minestrone soup
- weeknight chicken tortilla soup (with sweet potatoes & beer!)
- my favorite white chili with pulled chicken & beer
- chipotle turkey chili with chickpeas & kale
- bacon beer cheese broccoli cheddar soup
- the perfect dunkers: italian herb & asiago cheese no-knead bread OR no-knead spicy cheese bread
- more comfort food perfection: skillet chicken pot pie
- all pwwb weeknight recipes
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a healthy italian wedding soup recipe, made with tender chicken meatballs, quinoa, kale & cannellini beans. this lightened-up italian wedding soup gets an extra punch of flavor from lemon juice & lots of pesto, making it a cozy & comforting soup & fresh easy weeknight dinner all at once!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2–3 carrots, diced
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- Kosher salt & ground black pepper
- 1 head garlic, halved crosswise & excess paper discarded (see Recipe Notes)
- ½ cup dry quinoa, rinsed
- 64 ounces low-sodium chicken stock
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 2 14-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
- 1 bunch kale, destemmed & finely shredded
- for serving: pesto, extra grated parmesan, crusty Italian Herb & Asiago bread
for the chicken meatballs:
- 1 pound ground chicken
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- Kosher salt & ground black pepper
- Prep the meatballs: Add all listed ingredients to a medium bowl. Season with ½ teaspoon each Kosher salt and ground black pepper. Use your hands to bring the mixture together, being careful not to overwork the mixture. Roll the mixture into tablespoon-sized balls. You’ll get about 20-22 meatballs.
- Brown the meatballs: Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Working in 2-3 batches, brown the chicken meatballs, about 1-2 minutes per side. Be careful not to overcrowd the pot – you want the meatballs to brown evenly to maximize the flavor in this lightened-up italian wedding soup. Transfer the browned meatballs to a plate and set aside – the meatballs will not be cooked through at this point, and that is totally fine!
- Cook the aromatics: Add the remaining olive oil to the same Dutch oven or pot. Reduce the heat to medium. Once hot, add the onion and carrots. Season with the Italian seasoning and 1 teaspoon each Kosher salt and ground black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies soften slightly, about 4-5 minutes.
- Assemble the lightened-up Italian wedding soup: Add the garlic, quinoa, chicken stock, lemon juice, & browned meatballs to the Dutch oven or pot. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10-12 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through and the quinoa is tender. Add the white beans and shredded kale to the soup. Simmer for 4-5 minutes more, until heated through.
- Serve the soup topped with a dollop of pesto, extra grated parmesan cheese, & some comforting Italian Herb & Asiago no-knead bread. Enjoy!
- Dutch oven: I like making this chicken tortilla soup, and all the soups & chilis I make, in a nice Dutch oven. The heaviness of the pot retains heat well & evenly. This is the Dutch oven pictured in this post. I love it. I also own this Dutch oven, which is a little more budget-friendly & works great!
- Garlic: A whole head?! Heck yes! It’s my favorite hack to adding TONS of flavor to store-bought stock with hardly any effort. Halve the head of garlic crosswise, exposing the cloves. Use your fingers to rub off & remove any excess paper, then just toss it on into the pot! Remove the garlic when you serve the soup – or squeeze those cloves right into the soup for an occasional bite of garlicky heaven.
Keywords: healthy Italian wedding soup, Italian wedding soup recipe