Italian Wedding Soup
We’ve been getting a mix of weather here in the Bay Area lately – rainy and windy one day, warm and sunny the next. . . Of course, we can’t complain, seeing as how we’re not snowed in or anything. But the alternating weather keeps changing our food moods. We would have a hankering for a comforting, slow-cooked meal one night, and the next, we’re ready to fire up the grill!
Luckily, we have found the perfect balance. Something hearty that can warm us up, but at the same time, is filled with light and clean flavors. The answer is all in this week’s recipe, Italian Wedding Soup.
Italian Wedding Soup is a popular Italian-American dish that gets its name from a mistranslation. In Italian, it’s called minestra maritata, which means “married soup” because of how well the soup ingredients go together (a nice “marriage” of flavors). Good to clear that up, since we’re not experiencing any weddings this week, and it would be a shame to only enjoy this dish during a wedding!
“I went from getting funny faces when saying, ‘This is what’s for dinner,’ to being asked if second and third helpings were okay? Definite success.”
This soup is typically made with green veggies and meat, but we love to try to get in more veggies whenever we can, so we throw in some carrots along with the spinach. They also add a nice pop of color to the dish! And to keep it lean and healthy enough for a springtime meal, ground turkey is used for the meatballs.
If you’ve been keeping up with our Cooking on a Budget series, you’ll know that grains are one of the top 10 budget-friendly ingredients. Not only are grains a money-saver, but it’s a great way to bulk up a meal, especially soups. Our Italian Wedding Soup recipe has Israeli (or pearl) couscous added, making it a filling and fun way to enjoy this soup.
“Ahhhh…pure comfort food that goes so well with cold rainy weather. I added chipotle powder, which made it spicy and smoky and added a ton of flavor.”
As we head into April, we can be sure of one thing – April showers! So while we’re counting on several days of near-summer heat amidst the rainfall, you can also bet that we’ll be well-prepared. Because this soup recipe will get us through any kind of weather that the Bay Area throws at us.
Flavor it Up!
Have you ever had trouble with soups being too bland? Since a good portion of it is made with water or stock, it can be hard to get more in-depth flavor. If that is the case, don’t be afraid to play chef! Learn to jazz up your meals with our How to Maximize Flavor series, which includes a study on flavor profiles.
For this soup, we like to add Mediterranean spices with the help of our Spice Chart. But feel free to experiment with different flavors, just like Kitchen Hero Alina, who added spiciness and smokiness to her soup with chipotle powder.
For More Smarts:
- Double your batch of meatballs. They freeze well and are a quick solution to the days that you just don’t feel like cooking. Use them in soups, pastas, or sub sandwiches. [To learn more about freezing food, check out our Guide to Frozen Food Storage.]
- This soup comes together quickly for a weeknight meal, especially if you have your pearl couscous cooked beforehand. Meal planning tip: Make once, eat twice! Cook twice the amount of couscous than the recipe calls for, use half for the soup, and the other half alongside a dish like Mediterranean Chicken Packets.
Onions and carrots are aromatics that impart deep flavors into the dish that they are cooked in. Learn how to chop these veggies with these quick how-to videos:
Baking meatballs is a quick and healthy way to enjoy them, and all you need is an inexpensive sheet pan.
For more kitchen and equipment and tool smarts, visit our ‘Essential Kitchen Cookware and Tools’
- Israeli / pearl couscous – 3/4 cup, uncooked (yields ~2 cups cooked)
- Parsley – 1/4 bunch, chopped
- Lean ground turkey – 1 lb
- Milk – 1/4 cup
- Italian seasonings – 1/2 Tbsp
- Red chili flakes – 1/4 tsp
- Salt – 1/2 tsp
- Panko – 1/4 cup
- Parmesan cheese (opt) – 2 Tbsp, grated
- Garlic – 3 cloves, minced
- Onions (small) – 1, diced
- Carrots – 2, diced (shortcut: sub 2 cups frozen diced carrots)
- Cooking oil – 1 Tbsp
- Chicken stock – 5 cups
- Baby spinach – 4 oz
- Salt and pepper – to taste
- Cook Israeli / pearl couscous – Bring a saucepan of water to boil. Salt generously and add couscous, and cook until al dente, tender but still with a bite. Drain. (Can be done up to 5 days ahead)
- Make meatballs – Heat oven to 375F (191C) degrees. Chop parsley. Mix parsley with ground turkey, milk, Italian seasonings, chili flakes, salt, panko, and cheese (if using). Brush or spray a sheet pan with some oil. Roll meatball mixture into small 1” (2.5 cm) wide meatballs and place onto sheet pan. Bake for 8 minutes. Meatballs won’t be completely cooked through but will finish cooking in soup. (Can be done up to 3 days ahead)
- Garlic / Onions / Carrots – Prep as directed. (Can be done up to 3 days ahead)
- Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add cooking oil and then garlic and onions to heated oil with a pinch of salt. Saute until softened, ~3 minutes. (If you want to do it in a slow-cooker, combine all soup ingredients – meatballs included – except for leftover couscous and spinach, and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Just fold those in at the end.)
- Add carrots and stock, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil. Simmer (with the lid on) for 8 to 10 minutes, until carrots are mostly cooked through.
- Add in meatballs and bring back to a boil.
- Turn off heat and add in cooked couscous and baby spinach. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper, or get creative with the help of our flavor study. You can try items like tomato paste, soy sauce, or even some anchovy paste to add some depth. And of course, use any Mediterranean spices too!