Add the best Italian Wedding Soup to the menu this week! This healthier Italian Wedding Soup recipe skips the pasta for fiber-rich white beans and features the most tender and flavorful pork and turkey meatballs. The best part—you only need 9 ingredients for this stellar dinner! 

yellow-orange broth in a white bowl with meatballs, kale and beans

Why I Love this Easy Italian Wedding Soup

First and foremost, my goal in developing this recipe was to create a wholesome and delicious weeknight meal that required a short ingredient list and very little work. By making some intentional ingredient swaps I was able to develop a soup recipe that has great depth of flavor without a long simmer time or in-depth ingredient list.

For instance, instead of broth, this recipe relies on a gradual building and infusing of flavor in the broth. It starts with browning meat, sautéing onions, adding salt and garlic, and briefly simmering. This chicken and rice soup uses a similar method of building flavor with smart techniques and few ingredients.

yellow-orange broth in a white bowl with meatballs, kale and beans. white bowl set on a gray plate with glasses of ice water set around

Ingredients in Healthy Italian Wedding Soup

  • Ground Meat. You can use whatever ground meat you prefer in this Italian Wedding Soup—ground chicken, ground turkey, ground pork, ground beef, ground italian sausage. Whatever you like and whatever you’ve got on hand will work swimmingly. I prefer a mix of ground pork and lean ground turkey—it strikes the perfect healthful balance while also having a great texture.
  • Panko Bread Crumbs. If you can find it, whole-wheat Panko is ideal here. Regular Panko will also work, as will regular bread crumbs, but Panko has a nice texture and soaks up extra moisture which creates tender meatballs. 
  • Fresh parsley. Self explanatory, parsley adds freshness! Use chopped parsley in both the meatballs and the soup. A great example of how one ingredient can work double duty. 
  • Egg. An egg is important for minding the ground meat together for the meatballs.
  • Garlic. Fresh garlic is the way to go (always)! This soup uses garlic in two ways—minced in the meatballs and chopped in the soup, because no one wants to mince garlic for days. 
  • Olive oil. I prefer the flavor of extra-virgin olive oil here, but you can use whatever olive oil you have on hand. EVOO is also delicious drizzled over the soup right before serving. 
  • Onion. Yellow onion works best here, but a white or sweet onion will also work. If you’re looking to add more veggies to the pot, you can also add diced fennel, carrot and/or celery with the onion.
  • Kale. I prefer Tuscan kale here (also called Dinosaur or Lacinato). Regular kale will also work, as would any hardy green like Swiss chard or mustard greens.
  • White beans. Cannellini (white kidney beans) are delicious in this easy Italian Wedding soup, but chickpeas will also work. 
yellow-orange broth in a white bowl with meatballs, kale and beans

How to Make

  1. To make the meatballs for this Italian wedding soup, mix together the ground meat, bread crumbs, parsley, egg, and garlic. 
  2. Brown the meatballs in batches in a large pot in oil until golden brown.
  3. Remove meatballs and add onions to the pot. Cook the onions until softened, then stir in salt and garlic and cook briefly. 
  4. Add water and bring to a boil, simmer about 8 minutes to infuse with flavor. 
  5. Add meatballs, kale and beans to pot then stir in parsley to finish. 

Variations on Italian Wedding Soup

  • Add ditalini, orzo or acini de pepe instead of beans. After the water has been added and brought to a boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. 
  • Keep the soup light and simple by using only ground turkey or ground chicken for the meatballs. Though for the best texture and flavor, I like to use half ground pork and half ground turkey. 
  • Swap the hardy kale for bitter greens such as escarole or frisse. 
  • Add a splash of dry white wine to the onions right before adding the water.
  • Add diced fennel bulb to the onions while they soften. Finish the soup with chopped fennel fronds. 
  • Add grated Parmesan cheese to the meatballs or infusethe soup with a reserved Parmesan rind.

More Healthy Weeknight Soups to Try

Healthy & Easy Italian Wedding Soup

5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Yield 9 cups (4 servings)
Category Main Dish
Cuisine Italian


A healthier version of classic Italian Wedding Soup featuring tender meatballs, fiber-rich beans and kale, and a full-flavored broth. All that, and it requires just 9 ingredients!


  • 1 pound ground pork, turkey or chicken (we like half pork and half turkey)
  • ½ cup whole-wheat panko bread crumbs
  • packed cup fresh parsley leaves finely chopped, divided
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 4 large cloves garlic, divided
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt & black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups finely chopped onion (1 yellow onion)
  • 3 cups chopped Tuscan kale, packed
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can cannellini beans or chickpeas , rinsed and drained


  • Combine ground meat, Panko, ⅓ cup parsley, egg, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Mix just until combined.
  • Shape meat mixture into 1 ½-inch meatballs (#24 scoop / 1.5 ounces) and arrange on a plate.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium until shimmering. Add half the meatballs in an even layer, and cook, without moving, until first side is dark brown, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, turn meatballs and cook until second side is well browned, about 3 minutes more. Transfer meatballs back to plate and repeat with remaining meatballs; set aside.
    meatballs cooking in a pot in oil
  • Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil to now empty pot over medium until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add 2 chopped garlic cloves and 1 tablespoon salt (*see note) and cook 1 minute.
    onions and oil in a large pot with fond on the bottom
  • Add 8 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium and simmer 8 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in meatballs, kale and beans; simmer until kale is just wilted.
  • Off heat, stir in remaining ⅓ cup parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.


*Kosher Salt: you may be shocked to see we add 1 tablespoon kosher salt to the onions while they cook. First and foremost, it’s important that you’re using kosher salt. If all you have is table salt, start with 1 ½ teaspoons. Secondly, since this recipe uses water instead of broth, we’ve got to season the soup ourselves. 1 tablespoon of kosher salt will create a nice depth of flavor for both the broth and the soup’s components.
Gluten-free: to make this recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free Panko bread crumbs in the meatballs.
To make this even quicker, you can use frozen meatballs. Add them into the soup a few minutes before adding the kale and beans.


Serving: 2¼ cupsCalories: 246kcalCarbohydrates: 14gProtein: 35gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1.5gSodium: 1065mgFiber: 3.5gSugar: 1g
Like this? Leave a comment below!I love hearing from you and I want to hear how it went with this recipe! Leave a comment and rating below, then share on social media @zestfulkitchen and #zestfulkitchen!
yellow-orange broth in a white bowl with meatballs, kale and beans

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine,,, and more.

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  1. 5 stars
    I loved this soup! Flavorful, light and guilt-free. I love that this soup is customizable too – I’m excited to try it with chickpeas next time and might even try adding orzo or a noodle for extra heartiness!

    1. Hi Chloe! I’m so glad you enjoyed this soup! We make this regularly in our house too—makes great leftovers for lunch throughout the week. Let me know how you like it with orzo and chickpeas—yum!