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Healthier Italian Wedding Soup with Lemon and Garlic…that cozy bowl of winter soup that’s healthy too. Herby chicken parmesan meatballs, simmered in chicken broth with lots of lemon, garlic, and fresh produce for an easy and delicious winter soup. Each steaming bowl of soup has a bit of pasta and grated parmesan on top. This soup is quick, easy, and SO DELICIOUS. You can make it on the stove or in the crockpot, either way, it’s going to be good. The aroma will fill your home with the cozy smell of soup…that’s just a touch healthier.

overhead photo of Healthier Italian Wedding Soup with Lemon and Garlic with hand on soup bowl

It’s safe to say that January is the month of soup. For a lot of us, the weather is cold and blistery, which means soup…multiple times a week. It’s not just me, right? You all love soup too? I sure hope so because I have a handful of new soup recipes I’m just waiting to share with you all.

And the first one up is this Italian wedding soup. But with a healthier take, which honestly was already pretty healthy from the start. All I did was make a few tweaks, add some additional flavor, a bit more color, and of course, made sure to make it extra delicious, yet still hearty and filling. I’ve wanted to make Italian wedding soup for the longest time, but it has been one of those recipes that took me a while to try out. With all of the family in town over Christmas break, I thought it would be a good time to test this out. It took me a few rounds, but I finally got it just right. The verdict from the family?

Everyone loved this wedding soup. It was without a doubt one of the more popular dinners I served everyone over the holidays. The most popular was probably the coconut milk braised chicken I shared last week, but this was very close. Bottom line? We all love this recipe. It’s easy, healthy, and most importantly, it is SO GOOD.

Healthier Italian Wedding Soup with Lemon and Garlic in soup pot

So, what is Italian Wedding Soup?

Well, according to the internet, the term “wedding soup” comes from the Italian language phrase “minestra maritata”  or “married soup”. This is a reference to the flavor combination (the marriage) of meat and greens. If I hadn’t googled, this never would have crossed my mind. My thinking was that this soup had something to do with an Italian wedding, but I obviously was way off.

Traditionally, wedding soup is made with meat (usually a chicken meatball or a mixed sausage and pork meatball), vegetables, and chicken broth. It also commonly has a small cut pasta such as acini di pepe or orzo, and more often than not, parmesan cheese too.

steaming pasta

Here’s how to make a healthier Italian wedding soup.

It starts with the mini chicken meatballs. Most of the time wedding soup is made with either pork or a combination of pork and sausage. Since this is Healthy January, I wanted to use something a little leaner, so I went with ground chicken. I mixed fresh parsley, oregano, and a touch of smoked paprika for additional flavor. And of course, a bit of parmesan cheese too.

Once you’ve formed the meatballs the soup comes together pretty quickly. It’s a matter of cooking up a good amount of garlic, carrots, and celery. Then add the broth and simmer along with a parmesan rind (for truly incredible flavor) and the meatballs.

Instead of pan-frying the meatballs, I simply simmered them in the soup, which is not only easier, but healthier too. You’ll also never end up with a dry meatball. Since the meatballs only take twenty or so minutes to cook, I like to use this time to boil the pasta. I used acini de pepe, but orzo would work just a well.

Once the meatballs are cooked through, stir in the spinach and plenty of lemon juice. And that’s it, just be sure to serve each bowl with crusty bread and additional parmesan cheese. In my book, there’s no other way to do an Italian soup.

side angled close up photo of Healthier Italian Wedding Soup with Lemon and Garlic and hands on soup bowl

If you want leftovers?

The key is to boil the pasta separately from the soup. I know this is an extra step, but if you want to enjoy a brothy bowl of soup later, this is how you should do it.

I know a lot of recipes will tell you to just boil the pasta in the soup. But if you want leftovers, the pasta will soak up all the broth, which is a major bummer. Therefore, I boil the pasta separately and then add it to each bowl of soup. The heat from the broth will warm the pasta, making leftovers great for lunch the next day.

My favorite part about this soup? The smells throughout the house as this simmers away. Something about a simmering pot of chicken soup is so comforting on a cold wintry day. If I had an Italian grandma, this is what I would imagine her kitchen would smell like.

But since I don’t have an Italian grandma, I’ll just be over here making this myself…on a weekly basis…from now until the spring flowers start blooming. Bring on all the garlicky, lemony, and slightly cheesy pasta filled soup. With a side of bread and extra cheese, of course.

overhead photo of Healthier Italian Wedding Soup with Lemon and Garlic

If you make this healthier Italian wedding soup, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!

Healthier Italian Wedding Soup with Lemon and Garlic

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories Per Serving: 627 kcal

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

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Ingredients

Instructions

Stove-Top

  • 1. To make the meatballs. Add the chicken, egg, parmesan, parsley, oregano, paprika, and a pinch each of salt and pepper to a bowl. Coat your hands with a bit of olive oil and roll the meat into small, 1-inch size meatballs, placing them on a baking sheet as you work.
    2. To make the soup. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion and smashed garlic cloves and cook 5 minutes, until golden. Add the carrots, celery, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook another 5 minutes. Add the broth, reserved parmesan rind, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir in the meatballs. Simmer over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.
    3. Stir in the spinach and lemon juice, cooking another 5 minutes. Remove the parmesan rind. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
    4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to packaged directions, until al dente. Drain.
    5. Divide the pasta among bowls and pour the soup over top. Top each bowl with extra parmesan, if desired.

Slow Cooker

  • 1. To make the meatballs. Add the chicken, egg, parmesan, parsley, oregano, paprika, and a pinch each of salt and pepper to a bowl. Coat your hands with a bit of olive oil and roll the meat into small, 1-inch size meatballs, placing them on a baking sheet as you work.
    2. In the bowl of your crockpot, combine the olive oil, onion, garlic cloves, carrots, celery, broth, reserved parmesan rind, and a pinch of red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Stir in the meatballs. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 4-5 hours. 
    3. Finish as directed above.

Instant Pot

  • 1. To make the meatballs. Add the chicken, egg, parmesan, parsley, oregano, paprika, and a pinch each of salt and pepper to a bowl. Coat your hands with a bit of olive oil and roll the meat into small, 1-inch size meatballs, placing them on a baking sheet as you work.
    2. Set Instant Pot to sauté and add the olive oil. Once hot, add the onion and smashed garlic cloves and cook 5 minutes, until golden. Add the carrots, celery, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook another 5 minutes. Add the broth, reserved parmesan rind, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir in the meatballs. Seal the instant pot and cook on high pressure for 8 minutes. 
    3. Finish as directed above.
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Comments

  1. I made this soup tonight and my husband and I both LOVED it. I bought lean ground chicken and then read other comments and worried they would be bland. We used the fresh herbs and I added more salt and they are so tasty. And we had extra because I bought 2 lbs and my husband baked the rest and those are delicious!
    I tried to count all the calories and I came up with approx 3,500 for 6 quarts of soup. So I think your serving size is way off too. I ate 1 1/2 cups which I think was around 225 calories. Very healthy and tasty. Thanks!

    1. Thank you so much Lila! I am really glad you both enjoyed this recipe! I will look into the serving size! xTieghan

    1. Hi Caitlin! I am sorry the meatballs didn’t turn out as well as expected. Is there anything I can help with? xTieghan

  2. 5 stars
    This soup is excellent!!! I made this last night on my stove top, using turkey for the meatballs and orzo for the pasta. The combination of spices/flavors were delicious! Will be making again!

  3. I make Italian Wedding Soup, but I use 80/20 chop meat, grounded Italian sausage and grounded veal, no Spanish, instead I use Escarole. It comes out delicious each time. I do extra large batches of this soup, because I vacuum seal two quarter jars and send off to my son and grand-children in PA. I do the same with all my soups and many homemade Italian meals.

    1. I am really glad you have been loving this one, Terri! So sweet of you to send to your family as well! xTieghan

  4. 5 stars
    Made this last night and it was SOOOOO good! I had to use ground beef because that’s all I had on hand, but man, it was amazing. The whole family loved it!

  5. Absolutely delicious! Definitely recommend. Wanted a satisfying soup while we’re hunkered down and quarantining (crazy times.) Made just as directed with quality ingredients. Whole family loved it, and leftovers for tomorrow! [Though I could not find that Parmesan rind in the pot…still in there somewhere…?]

  6. 5 stars
    MY NEW FAV SOUP – i love this soup. so perfect in every way. simple and yummy. made a double batch. and froze some. even frozen was fantastic when reheated – though my turkey meatballs came apart a bit. My two teenage sons loved it. we substituted gluten free pasta. AND i had mine without any pasta. all variations were easy to do and yummy!!!

  7. I’m going to make this for dinner tonight!
    I love your recipes. Your use of coconut milk has been slightly revolutionary to me, by the way.

  8. 5 stars
    OH my goodness! This soup is absolutely incredible. I have made it twice (once with orzo and once with acini de pepe) and both times I was astounded at the flavours coupled with the ease of pulling it all together. I opted for the Instant Pot method and followed your instructions on preparing the pasta separately. The addition of lemon juice at the end is brilliant and adds a complex flavour to the dish. Love all of your recipes Tieghan, but this one I had to comment on!

  9. 5 stars
    I made this w chicken and I really like it. Thank you. Parmesan cheese and Smokey paprika is delicious. Thanks.
    Ps. I bought both my daughters your new cookbook for Christmas. It was a hit!

  10. 4 stars
    I think the Addison of lemon makes it taste more like a Greek meatball soup. Next time I’ll leave the lemon out because the broth was delicious without it.

  11. 5 stars
    Loved this soup. Love all the spices and herbs in the meatballs. I used ground turkey and the meatballs were very tasty. I have two comments though. First, I’d double the amount of meat because there just wasn’t enough meatballs for me. Maybe I made the meatballs too big? I just didn’t get enough of the tasty meat in my bowl. second, I would only use about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of pasta. I used one cup and the next day the pasta had more than doubled after absorbing all the broth. Thank you!!

    1. Hey Teresa! Next time maybe try making the meatballs a bit smaller or using 2 pounds of meat for a meatier soup. Either should work nicely. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I am so glad love this recipe! Thank you!! xTieghan