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- Lean into Spring with this Bright & Cozy Soup!
- Italian Wedding Soup with Chicken/Turkey Meatballs Recipe Highlights
- What is Italian Wedding Soup?
- Key Ingredients
- How to Make Italian Wedding Soup with Chicken or Turkey Meatballs
- Serving Suggestions & Other Quick Tips
Lean into Spring with this Bright & Cozy Soup!
As winter (ahem…theoretically) comes to a close here in the upper Midwest, I’m eager to bring some much-needed brightness back into my kitchen. Yet with cooler temps hanging around, I still find myself craving something warm & comforting. The perfect solution is a meal that’s satisfying but has light & bright flavor, & fresh-yet-cozy soups like Golden Soup, Springtime Chicken & Dumplings, & Italian Wedding Soup with Turkey Meatballs hit all the right notes!
Inspired by the classic Italian soup we all know & love, this recipe has familiar flavor with a few feel-good twists. Tender & juicy turkey (or chicken!) meatballs come together quickly & are seared right in the soup pot to create incredible depth of flavor. Quinoa replaces traditional pasta & a generous amount of white beans adds hearty plant-based protein. But the very best part just might be spooning vibrant pesto into the lemon-infused broth for a little more freshness in every sip.
It’s the perfect recipe for a late winter or early spring dinner when you’re craving something that’s light, bright, & cozy all at once. Plus, it all comes together in about 45 minutes – springtime comfort food doesn’t get better than that!
Italian Wedding Soup with Chicken/Turkey Meatballs Recipe Highlights
If you love an updated classic, you’ve got to try this lightened-up Italian Wedding Soup recipe! It’s…
LIGHT, BRIGHT, & FLAVOR-FORWARD. Every spoonful of this homemade Italian wedding soup is laced with bright lemon & herbaceous pesto. It’s the perfect feel-good soup for a cold winter day or transitioning into springtime.
EASY TO MAKE. From start to finish, this Italian meatball soup comes together in about 45 minutes. The perfect simple comfort food to enjoy after a long day!
VERSATILE. Feel free to make it your own by prepping chicken or turkey meatballs, swapping pasta for quinoa, or grabbing ingredients straight from your freezer. There are countless ways to customize this wedding soup recipe to suit your tastes & fit your schedule!
Total springtime comfort food! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make this Italian Wedding Soup recipe, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!
What is Italian Wedding Soup?
The classic Italian wedding soup that we know & love here in the U.S. is known as minestra maritata in Italy, which translates to “wedded broths” or “married soup.” While it’s traditionally prepared for special events & religious holidays, it actually has little to do with weddings!
Ingredients & preparation of authentic Italian wedding soup vary across Italy’s different regions, but you can typically count on a “perfect marriage” of meat & green vegetables in a bowl of wedding soup. This particular recipe follows suit, with a few notable twists: we’ve swapped traditional beef & pork meatballs with leaner poultry meatballs (feel free to make them using ground chicken or turkey!) & have opted for protein-rich quinoa in place of more classic pastas like ditalini, pastina, or acini de pepe.
This easy Italian wedding soup with turkey meatballs comes together using a handful of staple soup season ingredients, along with a few simple flavor boosters to result in a pot of soup that’s equally fresh as it is cozy.
Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
- Meatballs – It’s not Italian wedding meatball soup without them! This is my go-to poultry meatball recipe, which yields tender & flavorful results thanks to a smart balance of ingredients like panko breadcrumbs, egg, parmesan cheese, & Italian seasoning. You can prep them using ground chicken or turkey – either way, be sure to use at most 93% lean.
- Aromatics – Good ol’ carrots & onions create the base layer of flavor in this soup, while fresh garlic & Italian seasoning (i.e. a combo of dried basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, & marjoram) infuse the broth as the soup simmers.
- Cannellini beans – A couple of cans of beans bulks up this healthy soup with extra plant-based protein. I love the creamy texture of cannellini or Great Northern beans, but any white bean works well.
- Quinoa – While traditional Italian wedding soup is made with pasta, I opt for quinoa. You can simmer it right in the soup – no need for a second pot!
- Kale – Italian wedding soup traditionally includes greens & for this recipe you’ll use a generous amount of kale. I love the way hearty kale holds up really well in a warm broth, but you can easily swap it with whatever leafy green you love most (think spinach, or arugula).
- Chicken broth – Feel free to use store-bought broth or homemade chicken stock if you already have some on hand.
- Flavor boosters – Lemon juice infuses the broth with next-level brightness, while serving this Italian wedding soup with a spoonful of pesto finishes each bite with a final punch of freshness.
If you’re short on time, feel free to make this Italian wedding soup recipe with your favorite frozen turkey or chicken meatballs. Since most frozen meatballs are fully-cooked, all you have to do is drop them into the simmering broth & let them come up to temperature. Simple!
How to Make Italian Wedding Soup with Chicken or Turkey Meatballs
Just like many of our other go-to soup recipes, this Italian wedding soup is totally weeknight friendly! It’s a one-pot recipe that comes together in just over 45 minutes start-to-finish. It couldn’t be easier!
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Prep the meatballs. Combine all the meatball ingredients – ground turkey or chicken, breadcrumbs, egg, parmesan, & Italian seasoning – & use your hands to mix until just combined. Roll into 1-inch meatballs; the mixture yields about 20-22 balls. Tip! ⇢ Forming the meatballs using a spring-loaded scoop makes for fast & precise work.
Brown the meatballs. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, cook the meatballs a few minutes per side, until they begin to brown. Why? ⇢ While some Italian meatball soup recipes call for poaching the meatballs as the soup simmers, we think it’s always best to take a few extra minutes to brown them first. Browning creates depth of flavor for both the meatballs & the soup via a chemical process called the Maillard reaction.
Cook the aromatics. Sauté onions & carrots in a splash of olive oil & the juices left by the meatballs. As the veggies cook, they will release moisture & soften up. Use this moisture to scrape up the fond (i.e. the flavor-packed browned bits on the bottom of the pot) – that’s where all the flavor is!
Simmer. Build the soup with the browned meatballs, quinoa, a whole head of garlic (yes! 😍) & a fresh squeeze of lemon juice. From there, cover & simmer until the meatballs & quinoa are fully cooked. Finishing touches! ⇢ Once the soup is simmered, add shredded kale, which will wilt beautifully from the residual heat of the broth.
Simple Substitutions & Alternate Cooking Methods
One thing you’ll love about this Italian wedding meatball soup recipe is its flexibility. Feel free to swap things in & out or use whatever ingredients you already have on hand! A few ideas…
- Meatballs ⇢ Swap ground turkey for ground chicken, & vice versa. Both work well & cook similarly. If you prefer richer meatballs, feel free to use a combination of ground pork & ground beef.
- Kale ⇢ Substitute kale for fresh spinach, Swiss chard, or arugula. Any leafy greens work well, though I’m partial to hardier varieties during soup season.
- Quinoa ⇢ If you want pasta in your Italian wedding soup, feel free to throw in a small variety like pastina or acini de pepe pasta. Pearl couscous also works beautifully!
Crockpot or Slow Cooker Italian Wedding Soup
This Italian wedding soup recipe is easily adapted for a Crock Pot or slow cooker. For maximum flavor, I recommend browning the meatballs & softening the aromatics on the stovetop before assembling the soup in your slow cooker. If there your slow cooker has a “brown” or “sauté” feature, you can make the entire recipe in your slow cooker, start-to-finish. Refer to the Recipe Notes, below, for full slow cooker instructions.
Instant Pot Italian Wedding Soup
You can also definitely prep this Italian wedding soup recipe in an Instant Pot. Be sure to use the “brown/sauté” setting to brown the meatballs & soften the aromatics to build depth of flavor. From there, simply assemble the soup & seal the pot to pressure cook. Check out the Recipe Notes below for full Instant Pot instructions!
Serving Suggestions & Other Quick Tips
The bright ingredients in this Italian wedding soup with turkey meatballs are so nourishing that it can totally stand on its own as a meal! Once it’s simmered, ladle it into individual bowls & dive in!
Finishing Touches! ⇢ Top each bowl of soup with a dollop of basil pesto (try this kale pesto recipe to double down on kale!), a squeeze of lemon juice, & a generous showering of freshly grated parm. To take it to the next level, serve it alongside your favorite crusty bread – our Italian Herb Asiago Cheese No-Knead Bread is fantastic!
Storage & Reheating
How long does Italian wedding soup last in the fridge? ⇢ Leftover Italian wedding soup with turkey meatballs keeps beautifully – its flavors continue to meld & develop the longer it sits! Transfer cooled leftovers to an airtight container & keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. Easily reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for more guidance.
Can you freeze Italian wedding soup? ⇢ Yes! Since this version is made with quinoa rather than pasta, it freezes beautifully. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator & reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for complete freezing instructions.
I can’t wait for you to try this Italian Wedding Soup with Chicken or Turkey Meatballs! We’re obsessed with its nourishing ingredients & bright flavor, & we think you’ll love them too!
If you do give it a try, be sure to let us know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!
More Recipes Like This:
Cozy Weeknight Soup Recipes
As a self-proclaimed soup aficionado, there are few things that I find more comforting on a chilly day than a cozy bowl of soup. This Italian Wedding Soup recipe is a longtime favorite, especially when I’m craving something that’s both comforting & light.
Inspired by the traditional Italian soup we all know & love, this recipe has familiar flavor with a few feel-good twists: we’ve swapped traditional beef & pork meatballs with leaner poultry meatballs (feel free to make them using ground chicken or turkey!), opted for a combination of protein-rich quinoa & white beans in place of classic pasta, & laced the broth with a generous amount of lemon juice for deliciously bright flavor.
The result is total lightened-up comfort food, ideal for a cozy & bright meal to warm up any chilly day. Leftovers reheat beautifully for easy lunches throughout the week, & they’re also super freezer-friendly – check out the Recipe Notes, below, for full instructions, along with a few alternate cooking methods & easy substitutions.
Ever since we first shared this recipe early in 2019, this Italian wedding soup with turkey meatballs has brought comfort & warmth to countless PWWB readers’ kitchens. We hope you love it as much as we do! ♡ Happy cooking!
- chicken/turkey meatballs, below
- 2–3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3 medium carrots, diced
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 head garlic, halved crosswise & excess paper removed
- optional: 2 dried bay leaves, 1 parmesan rind
- ½ cup dry quinoa, rinsed
- 48 ounces chicken stock or broth
- 2 lemons, juiced
- two 14-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
- 1 bunch kale, destemmed & finely shredded (about 3 cups packed)
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- for serving, as desired: fresh pesto, shaved parmesan, finely chopped parsley or basil, crusty buttered bread or No-Knead Italian Herb & Asiago Bread
for the poultry meatballs:
- 1 pound 93% lean ground turkey or chicken (see Recipe Notes)
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- Mix & form the chicken/turkey meatballs: Add the ground turkey or chicken, panko breadcrumbs, grated parmesan, egg, & Italian seasoning to a medium bowl. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Use your hands to mix just until combined – take care to avoid over-mixing. Gently roll the meatball mixture into heaping tablespoon-sized balls – take care to avoid pressing the meatballs together too compactly. For quickness & ease, I like using a spring-loaded scoop. The mixture yields 20-22 1-inch meatballs.
- Brown the meatballs: Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid such as a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot & shimmering, add the meatballs to the pot. Working in batches as needed to avoid overcrowding the skillet, cook the meatballs 2 minutes per side, until deeply browned. Transfer to a plate & repeat with any remaining meatballs.
- Cook the aromatics: Once the meatballs have browned, soften the carrots & onion. If needed, add in an extra splash of olive oil to the pot. Add the diced carrot & onion, seasoning with 1 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Stir to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the veggies begin to soften slightly, 4-5 minutes. Add the Italian seasoning to the pot, stirring to combine. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
- Build & simmer the Italian wedding soup with meatballs: Add the meatballs back into the pot, along with the garlic, bay leaves & parmesan rind (if using), quinoa, chicken stock, & lemon juice. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cover & cook 10-12 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through and the quinoa is tender. Stir the white beans & shredded kale into the soup, then simmer 4-5 minutes longer, until heated through. Carefully taste & adjust seasoning as needed.
- Serve: Remove & discard the bay leaves, parmesan rind, & spent garlic (though it’s okay if a few softened garlic cloves stay behind!). Ladle the Italian wedding soup with chicken meatballs into individual bowls. Finish each bowl a spoonful of fresh pesto, extra shaved parmesan, & finely chopped fresh herbs as desired. For the ultimate comfort food meal, serve alongside crusty bread – this No-Knead Italian Herb & Asiago Bread is our fave! Enjoy!
- Ingredient Notes:
- Ground turkey or chicken: The secret to seriously juicy & tender turkey or chicken meatballs is using the right poultry. Whether you decide to use ground chicken or turkey, it needs a decent fat content, otherwise the meatballs will dry out. Look for at least 93% lean, though if you can find 90-92%, that’s even better! If you’re purchasing from your grocery store’s butcher counter, ask for ground turkey/chicken thigh or dark meat.
- Store-bought shortcut: If you’re short on time, feel free to make this Italian wedding soup recipe using your favorite frozen meatballs. I love these turkey meatballs & these mini meatballs are so fun! Most frozen meatballs are fully-cooked, so just drop them right into the soup pot as directed in Step 4 & simmer until they’re warmed through.
- Storage & Freezing:
- Storage & Reheating: Leftover Italian wedding soup with chicken or turkey meatballs will keep, stored in the refrigerator, for up to 4-5 days. Transfer the cooled soup to an airtight container. Reheat in the microwave or on the stove top until warmed through.
- Freezing Instructions: Transfer cooled Italian wedding soup soup to a freezer-safe container & freeze for up to 3 months – these are my absolute favorite freezer containers for perfect individual portions! Thaw frozen soup in the refrigerator overnight & reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave until warmed through.
- Alternate Cooking Methods:
- Slow Cooker Italian Wedding Soup with Meatballs: For mot flavorful results, roll & brown the meatballs & soften the aromatics according to Steps 1-3, above. Transfer the browned meatballs & softened aromatics to your slow cooker, then assemble the soup according to Step 4. Slow cook on high for 2-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally as desired. In the last 30 minutes, add the kale & white beans to the slow cooker. If your slow cooker has a searing/browning feature, you can use it to cook the entire Italian soup (Steps 2-4) in the slow cooker.
- Instant Pot Italian Wedding Soup with Meatballs: Use your Instant Pot’s “Sauté” setting to cook the recipe according to Steps 1-4, above. Cover & seal the pressure cooker and cook on manual high pressure for 5 minutes – allow for 15-20 minutes for pressure to build. Quick release the pot by carefully flicking the valve to its “venting” position. Stir in the kale & white beans – the residual heat from the pot should warm them up quickly.
- 15-20 Minute Meal Prep: Nearly all of the active prep work for this recipe comes from prepping & forming the chicken or turkey meatballs. Take care of some of this in advance & you can jump straight in to cooking during the week:
- Mix & form the turkey meatballs according to Step 1 of Recipe Directions, above. You can roll out the meatballs immediately or save the rolling for dinnertime; either way, the mixture will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. (15 minutes active)
- Chop the veggies. Dice 3 medium carrots & 1 medium yellow onion. Store in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (5 minutes active prep)
Keywords: healthy, easy, homemade, lightened-up, chicken meatballs, turkey meatballs
Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Step-by-Step Photography by KJ & Company, Kate Poskochil