Monday, August 2, 2010

I Now Pronounce You Reader and Soup! – How to Make Italian Wedding Soup

I knew today's video recipe was called Italian Wedding Soup because it's traditionally served at weddings, but I wanted to find out why this soup, with these ingredients in particular, was chosen.

I had a few theories. I figured the greens probably represented money,
and symbolized hopes that the bride and groom would enjoy a prosperous union. The soup's signature mini-meatballs were a tougher nut to crack.

How could taking large, virile, normal-size meatballs and shrinking them
down to dainty little shriveled dumplings serve as a metaphor for marriage? I just don't see a connection. Well, come to find out (according to two reliable sources; Wikipedia, and my friend and fellow Guide, Kyle) the name has nothing to do with people getting married.

Apparently, what we Italian-Americans from the northeast call Italian Wedding Soup is actually a misinterpretation of an Italian soup called, "minestra maritata," which basically means "married soup." The "married" refers to the delicious pairing of the greens and meat, and not the ritual of marriage.

So, the soup ended up being a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. What better choice for a first course at your Italian-American wedding reception than something called Italian Wedding Soup?

That should give you enough soup-related cocktail party conversation material for a while. Whether you fondly remember this from weddings past, or you've never had it or heard about it before, I really hope you give it a try. Enjoy!

1 quart beef broth
1 quart chicken broth
Note: A little more or little less broth will not affect the recipe
1/3 cup pastina or other tiny pasta
1 bunch kale
salt and pepper to taste
For the meatballs:
1 1/4 pound beef
1 egg
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup cream
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 tbsp fresh parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper


Kyle Young said...


Quit insulting inertia. It's friction you should be criticizing. Thanks.


Hollis K. Lee said...

Interesting looking soup! I will probably substitute with spinach as we don't have that kale in my neck of the wood.

Thanks for sharing

Chef John said...

I don't want to cause any friction, but are you sure? Isn't inertia "the resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion." The balls want to stay on the plate because of inertia until the force of gravity is great enough to move them. Then again, I'm a cook, not an physicist. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I'm not a physicist or a psychiatrist, but commenting on your cooking video about the technical use of a word may have more to do with the size of one's own balls, and whether or not they have them.

Chef John said...

Ouch! btw, I wasn't going to publish this rude comment, but i figured Kyle would actually get a chuckle from it ;-)

Blanca said...

Kind of like albóndigas! We use rice instead of pasta. Everything else is about the same.

Robert said...

Hey John! I was just wondering if you have made a melon salad with feta chesse, chili, lime and basil. It's one of my favourite dish. it's perfect for a warm summerday. If your interested in how to make it, you can send me an email. My mail is

And i just want to say, i really enjoy all of your videos! Keep it up!

Chef John said...

I posted this a few weeks ago, check it out...

Robert said...

Looks awesome man! I will definitely try it out. But you should try my version. I cant explain in words how good it is, you just want to scream of happieness when you eat it. And to make my version you start with cutting up half a melon about 4.5pounds, or if you prefer using the spoon thingy. When your finsihed with the melon, you finely chop a red chili (Remember to remove the seeds) And when that's done you chop up a package of feta cheese roughly. Put all of the ingredients in a big bowl, press one fresh lime over it and to finish it of sprinkle some rougly choped basli, Fresh basli of course! And it's ready to be eaten! I hope you understand the recipe, my english is kinda fudged becuse im from sweden, but i hope you can understand and please i beg you, Try it! ^^ // Robert

Food Junkie said...

Awesome again Chef! Soups are my favourite and Italian wedding soup is one I have wanted to try but never quite got around to it. Would this soup freeze well do you think? There is only me and I could scale back the recipe but I have lots of freezer space to enjoy some at a later date.

Kris said...

OMG - this is why I love this site! You consistently post recipes for my very favorite dishes which I could previously only find at restaurants. Chicken Marsala, Butternut Squash Ravioli, Thai Coconut Chicken Soup, Asian Beef and Shrimp Cocktail, to name just a few. I've tried other recipes for these dishes but yours are the only ones that actually taste like the restaurant versions. Thank you again for this delicious soup that is one of my husband's favorites. Can't wait to try it!

J Birdsall said...

Actually the friction is a component of the inertia. John is right that the meatballs have inertia to stay in their current state. If there were no friction that would still be the case but he would have a very hard time controlling them (I am picturing this and it is funny). So the gravity helps to overcome both the inertia and the friction which allows them to drop into the soup. I think the soup represents entropy but I may be getting a little far afield here. I need to get back to my bread.

Chef John said...

Guppy" Honaker, I'm posting your comment for you. I can't post your stuff if you included those aloe vera links! Thanks!
I love this recipe for Italian Wedding Soup. I'll try it soon. As a funny note, in the midwestern and southwestern areas of the USA, where there are concentrations of Mormons, we have a food served after funerals that is made from potatos and we commonly (though not formally) call them "Funeral Potatos" as they seem to be served at every funeral where a Mormon died and has family. So now I guess there's a food for marriage with a follow-up food for the " 'til death do you part" ending of the marriage!

- David

Chef John said...

Guppy" Honaker, I'm posting your comment for you. I can't post your stuff if you included those aloe vera links! Thanks!
I love this recipe for Italian Wedding Soup. I'll try it soon. As a funny note, in the midwestern and southwestern areas of the USA, where there are concentrations of Mormons, we have a food served after funerals that is made from potatos and we commonly (though not formally) call them "Funeral Potatos" as they seem to be served at every funeral where a Mormon died and has family. So now I guess there's a food for marriage with a follow-up food for the " 'til death do you part" ending of the marriage!

- David

Steve said...


Looks great but being a big lamb fan, I think I'll do it with lamb. I always have frozen lamb stock and chicken stock in the fridge.

Regarding inertia, I'd tend to blame recalcitrant meat balls on stiction (static friction) or adhesion first. Fascinating stuff. If you ever find a copy of Felice Frankel's book On the Surface of Things check out some of her photos of sticky things being pulled apart at the micro level. Great eye candy, as well as cool science.

Yes, I'm a nerd.

Now that we have Italian wedding soup, what's served for Divorce, Italian Style?

Anonymous said...

OMG! I love you Man! I've been trying to dissect this recipe for a month now... thank you, thank you, thank you... can't wait to try this!

Winnie said...

Chef Jon!!! - Congratulations on becoming one of the finalists on Next Food Network Star!

I was so excited this weekend to find out the final results - and I'm so glad you made it! I will be sure to bookmark the page and vote for you EVERY SINGLE day :)

Good luck! Thanks for all of your wonderful recipes - and PLEASE please please never quit the blog!!

Kyle Young said...


While it is true that an object in motion tends to stay in motion and an object at rest tends to stay at rest, the potential energy you created when you lifted the plate of meatballs off the table, combined with the force of gravity, should have allowed them to drop right into the pot. It was the friction between the meatballs and the plate that kept them in place until you tipped the plate at a severe enough angle so as to overcome their coefficient of friction and allow them to break loose into the soup... which, by the way, looks fantastic.

As far as the rude comment goes, I've been hanging around your site since steak au poivre. I'm the chicken marsala guy. "Anonymous" has nothing on me here. Yes, I got a chuckle.

- Kyle

Jesse from Detroit said...

I am a physicist and this is the first of a couple hundred Chef John clips that I've watched that has a scientific error (static friction was the culprit) so bravo for such a good record. Just curious, CJ: what percentage of cooked meals do you and Michelle record/post?

Chef John said...

Kyle, thanks for clarifying!

Jesse, i film about 25% of what we cook.

Becky said...

I was very very interested in how you did the meat. I've been wanting to make my own ground meat (so that I know what's in it), but don't yet have a meat grinder. Could you make sausage in a food processor? My Food Wish is.. ground meat! :D
Thanks! I've been leaving nice, detailed comments on how I love your show on FoodNetwork thing.

Food Junkie said...

Well even with a few short cuts for time this is still a big winner. Thanks for the recipe.

Khaddy said...

why are mexican wedding cookies called mexican wedding cookies? no really i want to know

Steve said...


Regarding making sausage with a food processor, Alton Brown mentioned that as a possibility in his Good Eats sausage show and deprecated it. He claimed that the sausage would come out "grainy".

I'd also suspect that you'd run the risk of making a meat purée. There might be a "butter zone", as Adam Savage of Mythbusters likes to call it, in the process where you'd get just the right consistency but I think it might be awfully hard to hit.

Just get a meat grinder. They aren't all that expensive.

Anonymous said...

I made this soup last night after I read the post - YUMMM -- of course I made a simplified version - I bought stock and ground hamburger - The soup turned out so well that even Kale tasted good! Don't let the grinding of beef and making of stock stop you - you don't have to go to all that trouble to make this quick tasty soup. The only thing I might change is to double the stock so there was more (and I cut the ground beef down to about 1/2 pound) -- Deelish - thanks Chef! Lindy

Unknown said...

Nice recipe Chef John. The recipe I'm used to (courtesy of my full-blooded Italian g-ma), uses spinach instead of the kale, has shredded chicken breast, and also contains an egg/parmesan solution drizzled into it. Other than that, that's about dead on to what I'm used to, although I personally leave out the pastina.

Great meatball recipe too, one of my favorite parts of the soup! :D

Good luck on the FoodTV show btw!

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or is it kind of ironic that a video for Italian Wedding looks like it has a broken heart right in the middle of the pot when the video hasn't even started?

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

At our wedding, my husband vetoed the little meatballs and insisted we go bowling.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chef John!
I want to cook this for my boyfriend on his birthday.
I'm new at cooking so I'm a little scared about the broth part. Do you think it will be fine if I used 2 quarts of chicken broth instead of one of them as beef?

Thanks so much Chef John and me and my boyfriend are anticipating to see you on Food Network!

Chef John said...

sure! and thanks!

Anonymous said...

Finally...a use for kale!

Rhonda said...

Hi Chef John;

Thank you so much for all you do!

I have seen (and tried) an Italian Wedding recipe from another food blog and it had an egg incorporated into it - like an egg drop soup.

When I attempted it, it seemed to cook the eggs too fast or unevenly or something.(It was pretty gross - although my husband liked it)

My food wish would be to see how to properly make an egg drop soup.

Wishing you all the best this holiday season!


Anonymous said...

HI Chef John, great video as always; we make wedding soup w/escarole or spinach and the aci de pepe. You do everything w/just great ease. You are truly good at what you do. Lots of luck in the contest. I def. will watch your show.

Pgh. Phyl

Lexie said...

Thanks Chef John! Recently had this soup at a quaint little Southern restaurant in Cheyenne WY of all places. Could have eaten it for the starter, main, AND dessert. So good. Thanks for the great tutorial.


Hope said...

Hey Chef John!

I recently discovered your site and have been going through and exploring it with great excitement.

I was amazed at this recipe because I adore Wedding Soup. I lived in Italy for 3 years, in Vicenza, which is in Veneto. In Italy, like here in the states different regions have different ways of preparing food. This recipe really interested me because it used beef meatballs instead of turkey or chicken, which is how I first ate it and always make it. I look forward to trying it this way!

Now, if you can only tell me how to make a real, Italian quattro formaggi pizza I'd be eternally grateful!!

G said...

Greetings Chef John~

Can i use cold minced meat instead for the meatballs?


Anne Hastings said...

Hmmm, we don't make it like that. We use escarole and lots of it, and chicken broth. It's called Wedding Soup or "scarole".

Inklingk said...

I can't believe no one's caught this in 6 and a half years but... tomato paste isn't in the ingredients list. Will the soup be ruined if I leave it out, or is it worth a trip to the store? Thanks!