Italian Wedding Soup (Paleo, Whole30)

This Italian Wedding Soup is based on a classic recipe but given a makeover so that anyone can enjoy it!

It’s a nourishing blend (a marriage, you might say?) of light, juicy meatballs and tender vegetables in a simple broth.

Like many soups, there’s lots of ways to customize it and leftovers reheat well.

Plus this version is gluten-free, dairy-free, Paleo and Whole30 friendly!

A paleo meatball and vegetable soup in a white bowl next to a green napkin with a spoon on it

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Paleo and Whole30 Italian Wedding Soup

Traditional Italian Wedding Soup usually features meatballs (or some other kind of meat, like sausage) and hearty, even bitter, greens in broth.

Funnily enough, the name comes from the Italian “minestra maritata” which means “marriage soup.” It actually has nothing to do with weddings but was thought to describe how the soup is the perfect joining of meat and vegetables for a complete, balanced meal.  It’s often served at Christmas, Easter and other events.

But for those of us who can’t tolerate gluten or dairy, I’ve modified it for a Paleo-friendly diet. Out goes the traditional breadcrumbs, cheese and/or milk in the meatballs.

Instead, all we need is an egg and some nutritional yeast to bind the meatballs. They’re still just as tender as light as the regular version.

Plus keep reading for ideas on how to customize this healthy Italian wedding soup!

 

What you need for Paleo and Whole30 Italian Wedding Soup

Ingredients for the soup:

  • 1/2 yellow onion or 2 large shallots
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 head escarole
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more as an optional garnish for drizzling over the soup

Ingredients for the meatballs:

  • 1/2 pound (8 oz.) lean ground beef (90-93%)
  • 1/2 pound (8 oz.) ground pork (but ground turkey, preferably ground dark meat turkey, works well)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder or 3 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

 

Equipment:

 

How to make Paleo and Whole30 Italian Wedding Soup

Peel and dice the onion. Peel, trim (cut off both ends) and dice the carrots. Trim and dice the celery.

Heat one tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium heat.

Add the onion, carrots and celery, plus 1 teaspoon dried thyme and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir occasionally until softened, about 5-6 minutes.

Add the chicken broth and water to the pot. Turn the heat to high and bring the broth to a boil.

While you wait for the broth to boil, make the meatballs.

In a large mixing bowl, add the beef, pork, egg, nutritional yeast, parsley, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.

Use your hands to blend everything together. Or add everything to the bowl of a stand mixer and blend using the paddle attachment on low speed.

Using a small cookie scoop or spoons, scoop out a scant tablespoon of the mixture onto a baking sheet. Set a glass of warm water next to the baking sheet and use it to get your palms damp. Then roll each meatball between your palms until it’s shaped like a ball. You’ll have to re-wet your hands every 5-6 balls or otherwise the mixture gets sticky.

2 hands rolling a meatball between their palms

a hand holding a meatball in its palm

Trim off and discard the root end of the escarole and chop into roughly 1″ pieces.

Once the broth has reached a boil, carefully drop in the meatballs (I like to start in the middle and make my way around the pot in ever-widening circles) and then the greens.

Reduce the heat to medium so the broth is at a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes (starting from the time you dropped in the meatballs and veggies).

Taste the broth. If you used low-sodium chicken broth, it will probably need more salt and pepper. I usually add about 1/2 teaspoon more salt and 1/4 teaspoon more pepper.

Ladle into bowls and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, if desired.

a gluten-free meatball vegetable soup in a white bowl next to a green napkin with a spoon on it

Make ahead and storage

The soup can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Reheat in a saucepan over medium heat.

The soup can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge. Reheat in a saucepan over medium heat.

 

Substitutions and variations

  • As I mentioned above, you can substitute ground turkey for the ground pork. I recommend a ground dark meat turkey if you can find that.
  • Also, if you can’t find escarole, any hearty green will do, such as kale, Swiss chard, spinach or dandelion greens. You can also use 1/2 of a red or green cabbage, sliced thin.
  • When I don’t have as much time, I skip the onions, carrot and celery entirely. I just add the broth and water to the pot and bring it to a boil while I make the meatballs and prep the greens.
  • If you want a bit of spice, add red pepper flakes either to the carrot/onion/celery mixture or to the meatballs.
  • To make it even heartier, add 1 pound peeled, diced potatoes to the broth along with the meatballs and greens.

 

Other recipes you might like

  1. Slow-Cooker Italian Chicken Stew
  2. Leftover Chicken Soup with Vegetables
  3. 3 Easy Paleo Meatballs
  4. Instant Pot Bone Broth
A paleo meatball and vegetable soup in a white bowl next to a green napkin with a spoon on it
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Italian Wedding Soup (Paleo, Whole30)

This easy Italian Wedding Soup is the perfect combination of meat and vegetables for a full, balanced meal. Plus it's gluten-free, dairy-free, Paleo and Whole30 friendly!
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: dairy free, gluten free, healthy, Italian recipe, Italian wedding soup, paleo, soup, whole30
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Don Baiocchi

Ingredients

For the soup:

  • ½ medium yellow onion or 2 large shallots
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more as an optional garnish for drizzling over the soup 
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as necessary
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 head escarole (see notes)

For the meatballs:

  • ½ pound (8 oz.) lean ground beef (90-93%)
  • ½ pound (8 oz.) ground pork
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¾ teaspoon garlic powder or 3 peeled, minced garlic cloves
  • ¾ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Peel and dice the onion. Peel, trim (cut the ends off) and dice the carrots. Trim and dice the celery.
  • Heat one tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  • Add the onion, carrots and celery, plus the dried thyme and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir occasionally until softened, about 5-6 minutes.
  • Add the chicken broth and water to the pot. Turn the heat to high and bring the broth to a boil.
  • While you wait for the broth to boil, make the meatballs: In a large mixing bowl, add the beef, pork, egg, nutritional yeast, parsley, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Use your hands to blend everything together. Or add everything to the bowl of a stand mixer and blend using the paddle attachment on low speed.
  • Using a small cookie scoop or spoons, scoop out a scant tablespoon of the mixture onto a baking sheet. Set a glass of warm water next to the baking sheet and use it to get your palms damp. Then roll each meatball between your palms until it's shaped like a ball. You'll have to re-wet your hands every 5-6 balls or otherwise the mixture gets sticky. 
  • Trim off and discard the root end of the escarole and chop into roughly 1" pieces.
  • Once the broth has reached a boil, carefully drop in the meatballs (I like to start in the middle and make my way around the pot in ever-widening circles) and then the greens.
  • Reduce the heat to medium so the broth is at a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes (starting from the time you dropped in the meatballs and veggies).
  • Taste the broth. If you used low-sodium chicken broth, it will probably need more salt and pepper. I usually add about 1/2 teaspoon more salt and 1/4 teaspoon more pepper.
  • Ladle into bowls and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, if desired.

Notes

Make ahead and storage
The soup can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Reheat in a saucepan over medium heat.
The soup can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge. Reheat in a saucepan over medium heat.
Substitutions and variations
  • As I mentioned above, you can substitute ground turkey for the ground pork. I recommend a ground dark meat turkey if you can find that.
  • Also, if you can't find escarole, any hearty green will do, such as kale, Swiss chard, spinach or dandelion greens. You can also use 1/2 of a green or red cabbage, sliced thin.
  • When I don't have as much time, I skip the onions, carrot and celery entirely. I just add the broth and water to the pot and bring it to a boil while I make the meatballs and prep the greens.
  • If you want a bit of spice, add red pepper flakes either to the carrot/onion/celery mixture or to the meatballs.
  • To make it even heartier, add 1 pound peeled, diced potatoes to the broth along with the meatballs and greens.

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