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Meatball and Escarole Soup (a.k.a. Italian Wedding Soup)

ceramic plate from Fifty One and a Half


This soup hits the spot at this time of year.  This is such a delicious soup that makes a perfect marriage of meat and greens (hence the name Italian Wedding Soup).  There are so many versions of this soup it makes your head spin.  Some use rice, some add beans, some use pasta, most have beef meatballs, etc. etc.  Here is how I like to make it. 

First, I use pork for the meatballs. You can use whatever you like - turkey (which I've done), beef, a mixture of beef and pork, whatever.   And I grind it myself as some of you know.  It makes a nice fluffy mixture to work with and I know exactly what is in my meat mixture that way. I used pork shoulder for this - in the grocery store often they slice up this cut of pork into large strips and call it "Country Style Ribs".  It's a nice fatty flavorful cut of pork.  If you want something leaner, by all means use ground pork loin.  

If you've never had escarole, here is your introduction to this terrific green.  It's a member of the endive family, but is less bitter.  It is really nice in fresh salads, also. Give it a try. 

Meatball and Escarole Soup

for a printable recipe click here

serves 4 - 6

1 pound ground pork (or whatever meat you like)
¼ cup grated Parmigiano Regianno cheese plus more for serving
¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
¼ fresh breadcrumbs*
1 large egg, slightly beaten
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper 
⅓ cup finely diced onion
½ cup finely chopped carrots 
1 garlic clove, minced or grated
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 head fresh escarole, washed, chopped and cut into bite sized pieces (don't use the white part low on the head)
8 cups chicken broth 

* to make fresh breadcrumbs yourself, just take a little bread and throw it in your food processor and pulse.  Easy!  If you don't have a food processor, a box grater works fine, too.

for the meatballs

Make the meatballs:  Place the pork, cheese, parsley, breadcrumbs, egg, onion powder, garlic powder and salt and pepper in a large bowl and gently mix all ingredients until blended.  Line a rimmed sheet pan with wax paper or plastic wrap and form the meat mixture into small meatballs, about a heaping tablespoon each. You should have about 20 meatballs.  Place on the sheet and let chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

for the soup

Heat a large heavy pot over medium heat.  Spray with some nonstick cooking spray and add about a tablespoon of the olive oil. Place half the meatballs in the oil and gently saute until golden brown.  Roll them around and brown on all sides.  Remove to a plate, add another tablespoon of the olive oil and add the other meatballs and brown the same way.  Remove the meatballs. Do not wipe out the pot.  Add the remaining olive oil to the pot and add the carrots and onions, gently sauteing for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for about a minute more.  Add the escarole and cook, turning the greens, until they collapse a little.  Add the chicken broth and gently return meatballs to the pot.  Give the soup a stir, bring to a simmer, cover and cook on low for about 20 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Taste and adjust for seasoning. I like to add more ground black pepper.  

Serve with additional grated Parmigiano cheese. 


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Reader Comments (21)

How much chicken stock? I don't see it in the ingredient listing...

February 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKelly Lauta

Am I missing something.???? No where in your recipe do you say how much chicken broth to use !!??


February 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterArlene

What a wonderful looking and sounding soup! Your photos capture the ingredients and dish beautifully. Alas!! We are having soup today - Chicken ditalini -- NOT your soup. You don't have any left over by any chance do you?? I am pinning and saving this for next time. Have a wonderful week. I sure wish I could be in your pasta class. Have you thought about capturing them in videos?? Abbracci!

From The Italian Dish:

Sorry, guys! That slipped by me. It's 8 cups of chicken stock or broth. Thanks for the heads up!

February 8, 2016 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

This is wonderful! You could even add white beans to make it heartier, like the classic "White Bean Escarole" soup. Do you have a recipe for that too? I love italian food!

February 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

I make this but I do not use carrots and I use a lot of escarole and then when the soup has simmered then I add the meatballs then when it come back to a boil I take eggs and scramble them and add it to the soup. I made this for Christmas and I use 8 heads of escarole everyone love it..

February 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

This is a wonderfully simple and satisfying soup as is. Many thanks for posting it.

February 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKnute

The best way to make this soup is with homemade chicken soup. The store bought broth is way too salty and detracts from the soup's taste. I use stewing chickens as did my mother, who made the best escarole soup ever.

February 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterToni

The ingredients read: 8 cups of Chicken Broth Ladies

February 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLorraine

This is so delicious! Just wanted to say I love your blog, fab phography and great recipes! Very inspiring :-)

Gustavo Woltmann loves Italian food- Gustavo Woltmann

February 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGustavo Woltmann

Read your blog and found your tips very helpful,as my meatballs are always hard and dry,Great suggestion

February 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterrossi


I found your blog a while back and found many of your recipes seemed similar to the foods I grew up on many many years ago. So yesterday I made your version of Wedding Soup, with pork meatballs. I added a little orzo pasta near the end to give a little extra something to each delicious spoonful. My son and daughter in law who sup with me most Sundays loved the soup and I did too. I will enjoy the leftover soup today


February 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterFrank Minutillo

I have bought a new meat grinder. My family loved the recipe.. We will try a different one next time.

February 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Hopkins

Best Recipe. I loved it. Thanks for sharing the wonderful recipe with us.

March 22, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbuy spices online

It looks amazing. :)

March 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

I love meatballs so much. I cant wait to cook these meatballs and have it as lunch together with spaghetti. Thanks for the recipe!

March 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTina

Ah, thank you! This is the best Italian wedding soup recipe I've ever used. I only added a little orzo.

December 24, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterskauthen

From The Italian Dish:

Skauthen: So glad you like it! I'm making a batch myself over the holidays for lunch one day.

December 24, 2016 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

This was amazing! I added some bouillon to flavor my broth, as it was a bit bland, but then once I added the meatballs the rest was magic. I also couldn't find escarole, my store stopped carrying it, so I used brocollini as a suggestion from my grocer. I used the greens. I was skeptical, but it worked. This was my favorite soup my Dad would make me growing up and the first time I made it. Thank you for taking me on a walk down memory lane. It was just as I remember it, maybe better : ) Thank you.

March 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

My Mom and Grandmom made Italian Wedding Soup for me when I was a kid. It was my favorite. Sadly they both passed-away without a recipe beyond "a pinch of this and until it feels right." You know an Italian recipe. Well, I tried several recipe trying to duplicate it until I landed on your's. It's perfect! Just like the LiVecchi women would make except they would always top it with homemade crouton. Thank you so much!

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHarry

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