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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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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- 1 1/4 pounds ground turkey or chicken
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus the parmesan rind
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley (or 2 tablespoons dried parsley)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (or 2 teaspoons dried oregano)
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 8-12 large cloves of garlic, smashed (use to your taste)
- 6 carrots, chopped
- 4 celery stalks, chopped
- 8-10 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 4-6 cups fresh baby spinach
- juice of 2 lemons (or to taste)
- 1-2 cups dry acini de pepe or orzo pasta, use more for leftovers
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- 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.
- 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.
- 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.