Meatballs often get pigeonholed into the various forms of spaghetti with marinara. While I have zero qualms with this classic combo, I’m here to introduce you to your new favorite meatball dish: vegan Italian wedding soup.
Picture a rich base of vegetables and savory white wine broth with herby meatballs, little bits of pasta, and hearty greens. It’s warming and comforting without feeling too heavy. Here’s why this Ina-Garten-inspired recipe will be your new favorite soup:
- It comes together quickly, since you make the soup while the meatballs are baking.
- You can use shortcuts if needed, like store-bought vegan meatballs or frozen spinach.
- It feeds a crowd, making it great for company or meal prep.
Here’s what you’ll need to make this vegan Italian wedding soup:
Vegan meatballs: While you can certainly use store-bought vegan meatballs for a shortcut, making your own imparts so much more flavor — and it’s quite easy! You’ll start with “raw” vegan ground beef, like Beyond or Impossible. Mix in breadcrumbs, a flax egg, herbs and seasonings, and plant milk.
Mirepoix: The classic combo of carrots, onions, and celery forms the flavor base of this soup. Chop into a medium or small dice.
Vegan chicken broth: If you can’t find a vegan chicken-less broth, vegetable broth is fine — it just won’t lend the same traditional richness.
White wine: Opt for a dry variety like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.
Pastina: Small star-shaped pasta adds body to the soup. Just be sure not to overcook it, or it will soak up all the broth and turn to mush.
Spinach: Throw in a few handfuls of fresh leafy greens (kale or chard also works). In a pinch, you can use frozen chopped spinach.
How To Make Vegan Italian Wedding Soup
This is a two-part recipe. First, you’ll make the meatballs. While they’re baking, you’ll start on the soup. By the time the meatballs are done baking, you’ll be ready to toss them in the pot.
First, make the meatballs. Once the mix has come together, form 20–30 small meatballs — they shouldn’t be larger than one inch in diameter. Use a small scoop for uniformity if you have it.
Bake the meatballs at 350 for 25–30 minutes. You want the meatballs to begin browning, but not be completely dried out.
While the meatballs are baking, start the soup. In a large dutch oven over medium heat, saute your mirepoix for a few minutes until it softens. Then, add the vegan chicken broth and white wine. Bring this to a boil, then add the pastina. Scrape the bottom of the pot so it doesn’t stick and burn. Cook this for about 8 minutes and then add in the cooked meatballs and spinach. Cook for two more minutes to warm everything through.
Serve hot, topped with freshly cracked black pepper, good extra virgin olive oil, and vegan parmesan if you have it.
Why Is It Called Italian Wedding Soup?
There’s a common misconception that this soup is traditionally served at weddings in Italy, but that’s not the origin of the dish’s name. Instead, Italian “wedding soup” (or “minestra maritata” in Italian) refers to the “marriage” of ingredients that pair together to create a well-rounded, satisfying meal. It has everything all in one bowl: protein, vegetables, leafy greens, and carbs.
This soup really stands well on its own! That being said, I never complain about a loaf of crusty bread with soup. If you’d like an even heartier soup, you can add a can of cannellini beans or chickpeas. It may not be traditional, but it’s undeniably delicious.
In the summer, I suggest serving it alongside my vegan caprese salad. You could also leave out the pastina and serve it with this tortellini salad. Finish off the night with a few pignoli cookies and you’ve got yourself an all-out Italian feast.
Vegan Italian Wedding Soup
FOR THE MEATBALLS:
- 1 tbsp ground flax seed
- 2 14-oz packages Impossible ground beef (or Beyond)
- 2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs (or 1/3 cup dried)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1/2 cup vegan parmesan cheese
- 3 tbsp unsweetened plant-based milk of your choice
- 3 tbsp fresh parsley (minced)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE SOUP:
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion (diced)
- 3 carrots (diced)
- 2 stalks celery (diced)
- 10 cups vegan chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup pastina (or other small pasta)
- 1/4 cup fresh herbs of choice (I like parsley and basil)
- 12 oz baby spinach
- meatballs (from above)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Combine the ground flax seeds with 2 1/2 tbsp water in a small bowl. Set aside to thicken.
- Once thickened, combine all the meatball ingredients together in a large bowl. Use a fork to mix everything together to keep the ingredients light and fluffy rather than compacted and dense.
- Roll out small, 1-inch diameter meatballs and place them on two parchment-lined baking trays. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until browned but not too dried out.
- While the meatballs are baking, heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the oil.
- Once the oil is shimmering, add the onions, carrots, and celery. Saute for 5 minutes, until softened.
- Add the vegan chicken broth and white wine. Bring the soup to a boil.
- Once boiling, add the pasta and cook for 8 minutes or until just al dente.
- Add the spinach, herbs, and meatballs and cook for 2 minutes until everything is heated through and the spinach is wilted.
- Serve hot, garnishing with freshly ground black pepper, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and vegan parmesan (optional).