Italian Wedding Soup With Parm Broth

April  7, 2021
6 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Amanda Widis. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog.
  • Prep time 45 minutes
  • Cook time 3 hours
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

As with many recipes that took a trip over from the old country, this particular soup has morphed its way through a long game of recipe telephone. Variations of this classic are found far and wide. The way I know it—and the version I hold near and dear to my heart—is a flavorful, simple soup converging on the marriage of greens (be it escarole, kale, or dandelion) and meat (be it meatballs, sausage, you name it).

For this version, I left out the pasta—bear with me a minute! You don’t need it thanks to a big bump in flavor from the homemade Parmesan broth (a great way to use up any Parmesan rinds stashed in your freezer). Plus a superhero meatball made with ground beef and pork (or sweet Italian sausage), more Parmesan, and a sting of garlic. But as I said earlier, the variations are endless, so for an even heartier soup, feel free to stir in some cooked ditalini, orzo, or even rice at the end.

These meatballs are cooked right in the broth, which makes them ultra-tender, and further deepens the broth’s flavor. If you want to brown your meatballs first, you can do so in the soup pot right before the aromatics (carrot, celery, fennel, and garlic) go in. Just remember to pop the browned meatballs back in at the end to get warmed through.

The Parmesan broth can be made in advance and held up to four days in the fridge or a month in the freezer. —Anna Billingskog

What You'll Need
  • Parm Broth:
  • 1 pound Parmesan rinds
  • 1 yellow onion, halved, skin left on
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Meatballs:
  • 2/3 cup panko
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork or sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • Soup:
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 or 2 carrots, medium dice (about 1/2 cup total)
  • 1 or 2 celery stalks, medium dice (about 1/2 cup total)
  • 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups torn hearty greens, such as escarole or other chicories
  • To serve: chopped flat-leaf parsley, lemon wedges, grated Parmesan, and red pepper flakes (optional)
  1. Make the Parm broth: Add all the ingredients to a stockpot, along with 12 cups of water. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally to keep the cheese from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When ready, the broth should look cloudy and have a deep Parmesan flavor. Strain the broth into a clean, heatproof bowl or pot, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. I like a lot of pepper in this broth.
  2. Meanwhile, while the broth is simmering, work on the meatballs: Combine panko and milk in a medium mixing bowl and stir. Let sit for a few minutes to let the bread crumbs absorb the liquid—this will give our meatballs moisture and a lighter texture. Add the beef, pork or sausage, and egg to the panko. Toss lightly to combine, followed by the Parmesan, parsley, garlic, pepper flakes, and ground fennel. Mix with clean hands to combine, but try not to overwork the mixture.
  3. To finish the soup, Add the olive oil to a stockpot set over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, fennel, garlic, and a healthy pinch of salt. Let vegetables sweat until they just begin to take on color. Add all the greens at once and give them a stir to wilt down. Add all of the Parmesan broth and bring to a high simmer. Using a tablespoon measure or two large soup spoons (one to scoop, one to scrape off), scoop the meatball mixture and gently plop into the simmering broth. Repeat until all the mixture has been used up. Let the soup gently bubble, lowering the heat if needed, till the meatballs begin to float and are cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes. Taste the broth and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  4. Serve with chopped parsley, a squeeze of lemon juice, and grated Parmesan if desired. Or, my personal favorite, red pepper flakes.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Molly Lofton
    Molly Lofton
  • tracy
  • carol
  • Karin

4 Reviews

Molly L. April 7, 2021
This is an incredibly delicious recipe. It’s a bit time intensive, but I’d imagine that’s fairly common with making your own broth. But, hot dang, is it worth it. The meatballs are level 10 delicious, tender, tasty. The broth is flavorful, bright, and delightful.
The only changes I made to the broth were the addition of two chicken carcasses (solely because I had them on hand) and a dash of apple cider vinegar. These aren’t necessary, but the whole thing was FREAKIN’ DELICIOUS.
I almost passed the recipe over since the rating was lower, but read that one of the reviews wasn’t remotely related to the taste of the meal and AM NOT SORRY. Goodness, thank you for sharing with us! This recipe will be saved and used for the rest of my life. (I know I sound dramatic, but this soup is 5 star)
tracy January 23, 2021
Oh my! This was just like I remember it - I will make this again and again. Just wish Parm rinds were easier to find!
I have shared this with many friends and family!!
Karin January 21, 2021
I dont know what this soup tastes like because i havent made it! Why? Because the Print version of the recipe is UGLY! And I cant download it to my phone! Even after I went to the time and trouble to create an account! Treat your customers with a little more respect please! And give us something we can actually use!
carol January 30, 2021
Woah, Karin - you can easily cut and paste the recipe and put it in a word doc. super easy to do.