Italian Wedding Soup in the Crockpot is a restaurant quality meal made in the comfort of your own home (or should I say crockpot!). It’s cozy, filling and will keep you warm all Winter long!
This Italian Wedding Soup is made in the crockpot so you can just expect the house to smell incredible as it cooks. It’s the ultimate comfort food for those cold Winter nights and has a little bit of everything. A savoury broth, delicious Italian meatballs, perfectly cooked pasta, some simple spices and herbs and a whole lotta vegetables. Round up the bowls and the family – they’re all going to love this comforting soup that is hearty enough to be a meal all on it’s own.
I fell in love with Crockpot cooking back in my teenage years. I could probably thank my laziness for not wanting to slave over a hot stove and cook an entire meal. Why would I, my teenage brain thought. If I could just throw everything into a slow cooker and allow it to work it’s *magic?*
Although a lot has changed since then and turns out, I’ve made a living out of slaving over a hot stove to cook an entire meal, one thing has remained the same. And that is my love for still wanting to throw things into a slow cooker, pressing a button and coming back to a perfectly cooked meal. It may not happen as often as it once used to (since I actually enjoy the process of cooking nowadays) but I can’t lie about loving a good slow cooker meal every now and again. If only for the way it makes the house smell alone. *drools* Classic Beef Stew, anyone? This Italian Wedding Soup in Crockpot is no different.
SO WHAT IS ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP ANYWAY? AND DO THEY REALLY SERVE IT AT ITALIAN WEDDINGS?
To answer the second question, right off the bat, no…no, you don’t typically find this soup at Italian Weddings. As y’all already know, I’m a proud Italian. And therefore, have been to my fair share of Italian Weddings. And I can say, based on personal experience, that I’ve never actually been served an Italian Wedding Soup at an Italian wedding.
So you might be wondering, is it just a funny name for this soup or why call it that if it has absolutely nothing to do with Italian weddings? Like many dishes that have been around for decades, the Italian Wedding Soup came from the poverty days – when people who couldn’t afford to eat lavishly made simple meals from inexpensive ingredients anyone could find or get. The original name of the soup in Italian, “minestra maritata,” literally means “married soup.” This refers to the ingredients in the soup – the meat, vegetables and pasta – that “marry” together to create a delicious tasting soup. Cool, huh?
WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO MAKE THIS ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP IN CROCKPOT
Besides the delicious ingredients listed down below, you obviously can’t make Italian Wedding Soup in Crockpot without, well, a crockpot! Let’s discuss the simple and fresh ingredients in a little bit more detail down below:
- The Meatballs: Ok, so these meatballs might just be my favourite part of this soup (and of life). We use this recipe for my mama’s famous mini meatballs, except we make them just a tad bigger than what the recipe calls for. The meatballs for this Italian Wedding Soup should be a little smaller than golf ball size. We use a mixture of ground veal and pork for maximum flavour but you can use just one or the other. Alternatively, you could use a different kind of ground meat altogether – turkey, chicken, beef…or even lamb, venison or bison. We sear the meatballs first then add them to the crockpot towards the end of the cooking time, only in the last half hour where they will finish cooking.
- The Pasta: This is another ingredient you can kind of play around with. I used a “pastina” (general term for any small shaped pasta) called “stelline” from the Barilla brand, which are little, tiny pastas in the shapes of stars. Alternatively, you can use orzo or anci de pepe. The pasta does not need nearly as much time as everything else to cook so we add it towards the end, only in the last half hour of cooking.
- Celery, Carrots, Onions, Garlic: The vegetables that make up this lovely, hearty soup. Dice them into bite sized pieces, not too small, so we can see and taste them amongst the other ingredients. These go in the crockpot first, along with the broth, to cook until tender. No need to sautée or sear them first.
- Chicken Broth: The base of our soup and for some extra flavour. What brings all the ingredients together. You know…marries them 😉
- Italian Seasoning: One of my favourite way to add a huge punch of flavour with just one spice. Italian seasoning is generally a blend of basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjoram. So, it’s a 5-in-1 deal and really elevates the flavour of the soup.
- Bay Leaves: Infuses a kind of minty flavour to the soup. Adds a slight bitterness to help balance it all out and prevents the soup from becoming too ‘heavy’.
- Fresh Spinach: It may seem like a lot at first but, as always, spinach wilts down considerably. It needs no time at all to cook and is added in the few minutes of cooking. The hot broth will be enough to wilt it.
- Olive Oil: Used only to sear the meatballs and is not added directly to the soup.
HOW TO MAKE ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP IN CROCKPOT (KEY TIPS)
- Make the meatballs the same size to ensure even cooking. We don’t want huge meatballs as we’re making soup here, people. Since this is not a blended soup, you want to be able to get most of the ingredients on a spoon in the same bite. Think golf ball size/slightly smaller.
- Sear the meatballs before adding them to the slow cooker. Oh yes, we want to get them lightly browned on all sides for a little extra boost of flavour. Don’t go overboard as they’ll finish cooking in the slow cooker. But lightly cook them up in a skillet with some oil then drain them on a paper towel lined plate. We add them in the last half hour or so of cooking. But be warned, it might be hard to resist eating them all before they actually make it to the soup!!!
- Don’t cut the vegetables too small. We want nice, bite-sized pieces that don’t get lost in the soup and turn to mush as they cook.
- Don’t add the spinach too soon. It requires no actual cooking time as the hot broth is enough to “cook” and wilt it. The final few minutes and a couple of stirs should do the trick. Alternatively, you can add a handful of spinach directly to the bottom of serving bowls. Ladle the hot soup onto the spinach and that alone will be enough to wilt it. The ladder is a good method if you intend to have leftovers. But I mean, in reality, there ain’t nothing wrong with overly wilted spinach other than it losing its vibrant green colour. So, you do you, boo.
- This type of pasta will ABSORB liquid like it ain’t nobody’s business. Serve the soup immediately after the pasta finishes cooking for best results. If you intend to have leftovers, you might want to add only as much pasta as you think you will need to the crockpot. When ready to eat the rest of the soup at a later time, cook the rest of the pasta into it after it’s heated. Otherwise, you will need to continuously add broth or water to get it back to it’s thinner consistency.
- The pasta doesn’t take too long to cook which is why it’s added only in the last half hour of cooking. The longer it sits in the broth, the more liquid it’ll absorb. Side note: they may look like teensy, tiny pastas (which they are) but as they cook and absorb liquid, they’ll expand a bit.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Small, teensy, tiny is the key here. I used little star shaped pastina called u0022stellineu0022 from the popular pasta brand Barilla. Other popular options are anci de pepe which are the little round balls or orzo, a rice shaped pasta.
Sure. You can use kale instead. Back in the poverty days when this soup came to be, other popular greens people often used were cabbage, lettuce, endive or escarole. Keep in mind that these vegetables may not cook as fast as the spinach does. So, if you are choosing to substitute, you may need to add them in the last half hour or so of cooking (instead of just in the final few minutes). Adding them in at the same time as the pasta should do the trick.
There are some things you can do to advance the soup and save some time on the day you plan to make it. Making the meatballs in advance is probably the biggest time saver. PRO TIP: Make a double batch of the meatballs and place half in the freezer. You can add them directly to the crockpot the next time you want to make the soup. Add them in the final hour of cooking (instead of half hour) if using directly from the freezer. You can also precut all the vegetables a day or two in advance to save some time on cooking day.
Yes. I love freezing all my soups for later use. As mentioned above, the pastina absorbs the liquid. When ready to eat, thaw the soup in the fridge overnight and reheat in a saucepan on the stove. You may have to add some broth or water to thin it out as it heats. It’ll maintain its quality and freshness for up to 3 months in the freezer.
Any leftovers can be stored in airtight containers and kept in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat in a saucepan on a stove top or in a microwave. Add more broth or water if the pasta has soaked up too much of the liquid.
- 1 recipe Mom's Famous Mini Meatballs (made slightly bigger)
- 1 large Onion, diced
- 2 cups Carrots, sliced
- 1 cup Celery, sliced
- 2 cloves Garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 8-10 cups Chicken Broth*
- 12 oz. Fresh Spinach
- 1 tbsp Italian Seasoning
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1/2 tbsp Salt
- 1/4 tsp Pepper
- 1 cup Pastina (tiny pasta)*
- Parmesan Cheese and Fresh Chopped Parsley (optional), for serving
- Add the celery, carrots, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, italian seasoning, bay leaves and broth to a crockpot. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours or until the veggies are soft and tender.
- Meanwhile, make the meatballs according to the linked recipe. Be warned, they're highly addicting and might be hard to resist before adding to the soup 😉 Note: Make the meatballs slightly bigger than the recipe states. Think golf ball size or slightly smaller.
- Add 2 tbsp of Olive Oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the meatballs (working in batches, if necessary). Cook a few minutes in total, stirring frequently, to allow all sides to brown. They don't have to be all the way cooked through as they will finish cooking in the crockpot when added to the soup. Transfer to a parchment lined plate to drain.
- After the veggies are done cooking, add the pasta and meatballs to the crockpot. Cook on low for an additional 30 minutes. In the final few minutes of cooking, add the spinach and stir until wilted.
- Top with fresh chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 323Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 67mgSodium: 13004mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 4gSugar: 18gProtein: 25g
LOOKING FOR MORE COMFORTING AND HEARTY RECIPES THAT’LL WARM YOUR BONES ALL WINTER LONG? HERE ARE SOME FAVOURITES: