Italian wedding soup

I’ve been battling a wicked virus. The main symptoms are a cough, exhaustion, and a lost voice. Or an almost lost voice, rather. My talker sounds like a mix between a frog, a purring cat, and a bag pipes (but without the tootling). I’m on Day Ten of nastiness and while I’m functioning well enough, I still have no desire (and possibly no ability) to go running, or even for a vigorous walk.

When my affliction first struck, I bent over backwards taking care of myself: lots of fluids, sleep, cough drops, rest, vitamins, and more sleep. But when the illness drug on, I despaired. I would never get better, it was clear. I would be sick for the rest of my life. So I quit babying myself and slipped into an apathetic stupor. There was lots of heavy sighing followed by violent coughing fits.

Then several days ago I decided I simply had to buck up and kick this thing. I decided to make a killer cure-all soup and eat it round the clock.

I knew exactly which soup I wanted: Italian Wedding Soup. When we traveled to Chattanooga for Thanksgiving, my sister-in-law served us this soup the first night we arrived. She couldn’t have chosen a better post-travel supper. After being stuck in a stale car and subsisting on crunchy carbs and fast food for an entire day, the spinach-packed broth with turkey meatballs was just the fortification I craved. Along with the soup, she served bread, and there was small pasta to add to the soup, but I skipped both in favor of a second bowl of the brothy lusciousness. 

Back home, I bought all the soup ingredients straight off, so earlier this week when I decided it was that soup I needed, I was prepared. I made a double batch. It was so amazingly perfect. Light, protein-packed turkey meatballs, rich, flavorful turkey broth, mountains of silky soft veggies…

We ate it for supper that night, then I had it for lunch the next day, and then I served it for supper again the next night (at which point I called it Deja Vu Soup). And then it was gone. What a bummer.

But guess what? I am better now! Not all better, but notably so. I’m crediting the soup.

PS. Along with being a great soup for sickies and the perfect meal to end a long day of car travel, this soup is also a fabulous antidote to All The December Sugar. Serve it pre- (or post-) sugar bomb party and you’ll feel practically virtuous, even if you do end up eating a dozen cookies yourself.

PPS. I went on a run/walk this morning! (I wrote this post yesterday.) It felt amazing, even with the wheezing.

Italian Wedding Soup
My sister-in-law adapted her recipe from the one found on Good Life Eats Blog, and I, in turn, adapted mine from both of theirs.

I recommend using the full amount of broth, and possibly more, especially if you have a rich, homemade stock on hand. I started my soup with less stock, but added another quart during one of the reheats. Towards the end, when we were down to just veggies and meatballs, I was kicking myself for not adding even more stock.

The raw meatballs are rather sticky. I ended up dolloping them onto the baking tray, à la cookie dough, instead of actually rolling the meat into balls.

Considering the fact that ’tis the season for car travel, illness, and sugar, might I kindly suggest that you make a quadruple batch? I suspect it freezes well, though I wouldn’t know for sure, seeing as we wasted no time slurping it into oblivion.

for the meatballs:
1 pound ground turkey
½ cup bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon each basil, oregano, black pepper, and garlic powder
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried)

Combine all ingredients. Shape into small balls, or dollop them as though they were cookie dough, and place a sided baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes until no longer pink inside. Add to soup, or, if saving for later, place in a container and freeze or refrigerate.

for the soup:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 quarts chicken broth
1 quart canned tomatoes
1½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon each dried oregano and dried basil
3-4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried)
1 12-ounce frozen package chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and well-squeezed
black pepper and salt, to taste
the meatballs
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Saute the onion in the olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, and garlic and saute for another 5 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes, vinegar, and herbs. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the spinach and heat through. Add the meatballs and heat through. Add the salt and pepper; don’t be shy. Serve with buttered toast, and don’t forget the Parm.

This same time, years previous: in my kitchen (sort of): 4:15 p.m., hot chocolate mix, iced, stuffing, pimento cheese spread, the quotidian (12.12.11), Sunday vignettes: human anatomy, Ree’s monkey bread, and cashew brittle.


  • Christine

    I finally had the chance to make this soup and it was tremendous. The flavors really came together even more the next day and you were right, more broth was needed. I originally made it with 1 1/2 quarts, next time I'll go with the full 2 quarts. Another winner for my recipe folder from your blog.

  • Kathy Ramos

    I am making this tonight….it looks so delicious. I 'm thinking my husband will enjoy also. Thank you for the recipe ;p

  • Camille

    Made it. Loved it. We all thank you! (My family *knows* you as my blogging friend with the no-fail recipes….does that make you smile?) Warm hugs for Christmas my friend. XO

  • Margo

    Also, meant to say: have you ever made the meatball soup in More with Less? It's delicious and you just drop the meatballs in the hot soup which makes them very luscious and soft. But it has cream in it – not really helpful to a cold some people say, but a delicious soup.

  • Margo

    ooooh, I must eat this!! I am at the end of a very nasty virus, too – I think it was the classic flu, actually, despite my flu shot this fall. I made chicken noodle soup several times and put in lots of garlic and black pepper.

  • Rebecca

    Yes! The cough AND the soup! Day 14, here, and I was stifling hacks behind my ladylike hanky during church. I made a brothy soup with kale and Asian-y ingredients: rice noodles, ginger, gobs of garlic, fish sauce, and ume plum vinegar. I'll add yours to the list of Recovery Soups.

  • beckster

    Jennifer, have you been vaccinated lately for Whooping cough? Unfortunately, it has made a big comeback in the US since people are not vaccinating their kids. Even if you were vaccinated as a kid, you can still get WC as an adult. CDC recommends that adults get another vaccination for this. Anyway, if not treated, it lingers a very long time, but treatment is simple with antibiotics. Just a thought. If it drags on a while, you may want to see a doctor. Thanks for the soup recipe! This soup is one of my favorites, but somehow I rarely make it.

    • Jennifer Jo

      I think we were all vaccinated before our Guatemala trip (though that doesn't mean anything, really—my friend's kids were all vaccinated and THEN got the whooping cough…). But I'm pretty sure this isn't whooping cough, just a nasty virus that is making its rounds.

  • Becky

    I had a similar bug a few years ago, so I know that ick.

    My go-to is a Tuscan kale, white bean and sausage soup right now – pretty similar actually. Last week's batch with homemade chicken stock may have been the most fabulous thing I've eaten in a while. Now that I think about it, I think I need to go pull the fixings out of the freezer for it….

Leave a Comment