Blissful Turkey Meatballs & Italian Wedding Soup

Turkey meatballs wedding soup

Crafty wordplay aside (Get it? Wedding/Bliss?), you might be wondering if a meatball could really be blissful? Darn good, maybe – but blissful? Hardcore carnivores might not agree, but I think these lean turkey meatballs – laced with parmesan cheese, deliciously caramelized outside and spoon-tender inside – are about as good as a meatball can get. They’re the newest addition to our family’s “Favorites” list – whether added to this healthy meal-in-one soup, served with spaghetti and tomato sauce, or eaten straight from the pan.

Not to be a wise guy, but I learned recently that Italian wedding soup has nothing to do with Italian weddings. Somewhere along the line, the blissful union of meat + greens in minestra mariata (“married soup”) was mistranslated as “wedding soup”.  There are countless variations of Italian wedding soup (Campbell’s even makes one), but it’s usually chicken broth-based with meatballs, greens and parmesan cheese. Some recipes call for thickening the soup with a cheese-egg mixture swirled in at the end.  I prefer adding a small amount of acini di pepe pasta – little pasta bits that swell to peppercorn size when cooked.  They thicken the soup a little, but also retain their shape (making this soup a good candidate for leftovers). Adding the rind from a chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is a great way to be thrifty and chef-y in one fell swoop; the rind flavors the broth like an all-natural bouillon cube, and some of the cheese melts into and thickens the soup. (Store your rinds in the freezer so you’ll always have one on hand.)

Buon appetito !

Blissful Turkey Meatballs

Makes about 32 meatballs

  • 1 lb ground turkey breast
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ cup grated or minced yellow onion (about 1 small)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup panko (or other dry bread crumbs)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (for browning)

In a medium bowl, mix together all ingredients except olive oil. Shape into walnut-sized balls (about 1”). (Dip hands in water to prevent sticking.)

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I used panko here — flakey Japanese-style breadcrumbs.

Don't worry about making the meatballs perfectly round.

Don’t worry about making the meatballs perfectly round.

Heat a large Dutch oven (or skillet if not making soup) over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and heat until shimmering. Brown the meatballs in 2 or 3 batches, turning once or twice so that at least two sides are golden brown (about 3-5 minutes). If adding meatballs to soup or sauce, they do not need to be cooked all the way through. If making meatballs to eat straight from the pan, continue cooking until no longer pink inside (or transfer to a baking sheet and cook in a 350F oven for 10-15 minutes longer).

The cheese, egg and breadcrumbs help these meatballs brown up nicely.

The cheese, egg and breadcrumbs help these meatballs brown up nicely.

Italian Wedding Soup

Serves 6, with leftovers

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 10 cups (80 oz.) chicken broth
  • 1 recipe Turkey Meatballs (above)
  • 1 large bunch escarole or kale, chopped into 1” -2” pieces (thick stems discarded)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmigiano Reggiano rind (optional)
  • 1/3 cup acini di pepe pasta
  • ½ cup ground parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Kosher salt to taste

Using the same Dutch oven used to brown the turkey meatballs, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and add the diced onions. (If you prefer a totally clear broth and enjoy doing extra dishes, start with a clean pot.)

Notice my browned but not totally cooked through meatballs waiting patiently on a baking sheet.

Notice my browned but not totally cooked through meatballs waiting patiently on a baking sheet.

Cook about 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and sauté another minute.

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Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add meatballs, greens, black pepper and parmigiano rind (if using). Cover and reduce heat; simmer for about 5 minutes.

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Stir in acini di pepe.

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Acini di pepe comes in a little box, usually near the orzo and pastini.

Partially cover pot and simmer for at least 15 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until pasta and greens are tender.  (Some greens will take longer to cook than others.)

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Stir in ½ cup parmesan or freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.  Check for seasoning, adding kosher salt if necessary. (You’ll most likely need to add a little salt if you used low-sodium chicken broth and/or did not add the cheese rind.) Soup can be made up to 2 or 3 days ahead.

This soup loves to hang out on top of the stove for up to an hour (covered, with the heat turned off).

This soup loves to hang out on top of the stove for up to an hour (covered, with the heat turned off). This will ensure the greens are fully tender. Reheat over low/simmer before serving.

11 thoughts on “Blissful Turkey Meatballs & Italian Wedding Soup

  1. Subee, I’ve been looking for a recipe for this soup! A little storefront in my town sells a very similar soup and it is a family favorite (when we can get it.) I’ve been searching online for the perfect recipe and, lo and behold, here it is in my inbox! Can’t wait to try it tomorrow night for Sunday dinner. Thank you! My stomach is growling….
    xo

  2. Hi, Sue!
    I’ve been wondering what to do with the frozen ground turkey lurking in my freezer. This soup sounds delicious. Thanks so much for once again inspiring me to cook!
    A. Krispie

    • I made the soup for my parents tonight and my mom said it was a “10”! My dad doesn’t usually like anything with turkey in it and he couldn’t get enough of it. This will be in my regular rotation from now on…thanks for another great recipe Subee!

  3. Ok, I made it and it is nothing but delicious! Love that you get the nutrition of kale in the soup, but it tastes just decadent! Another winner, Sue!

  4. Hi Sue! Just recently found your blog while studying up on marble countertops! 🙂 All of your generous answers to kitchen questions have been so helpful as I have been planning my new kitchen! Thank you. I was wondering how you like and use your gas oven. Do you use it for baking?

    • Hi Cami – I really like my BlueStar gas oven/range for all kinds of cooking and baking. I probably use it more than my electric wall oven, even though the electric ovens are supposed to be better for baking. (I haven’t really found that to be true; I recently baked a chocolate souffle in the gas oven and it turned out great.) In the larger oven I can fit 2 half-sheet pans side by side; can’t do that with the wall oven. If baking cookies, I’ll rotate the pans halfway through because the outside edges get a little hotter. Hope this helps!

      • So helpful! I’m going with all gas ovens but was worried about the weekly cookie batches. 🙂 Glad to know gas has worked out for you!

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