This hearty Italian Meatball Soup is the ultimate comfort food! With tender homemade, meatballs, vegetables and pasta in a delicious tomato-based broth with Parmesan cheese, it’s a delight for your taste buds!
Table of Contents
This Italian Meatball Soup recipe combines the savory goodness of homemade Italian-style meatballs with a flavorful broth and a variety of vegetables.
Soup can be a hard sell to my kids, but a soup that’s loaded with meatballs and pasta is always a win around here!
It’s a nutritious and balanced meal in one pot, perfect for busy weeknights for the whole family.
Whether it’s a cold winter evening or a breezy summer night, this soup is a versatile dish that fits all seasons and occasions.
The combination of beef and pork in these homemade meatballs gives them a depth of flavor and the addition of Parmesan cheese adds a hit of saltiness.
This easy soup recipe is easy to adapt, whether you prefer using leaner meat or want to add a spicy kick to it!
With ingredients like Italian seasoning, marinara sauce, and Parmesan cheese, this soup will bring the flavors of an Italian kitchen to your dining table.
It’s like a little Italian holiday, but without leaving the comfort of your home!
Below you’ll find all the tips and tricks you need to make the best meatball soup!
- Bread: use a slice of soft bread to make fluffy bread crumbs to give the ground meat mixture more substance when making it into meatballs.
- Meat: I’ve used a combination of lean, ground beef and lean, ground pork for these meatballs.
- Cheese: freshly shredded parmesan cheese is best to add a great salty, umami flavor.
- Egg: helps to bind the meatball ingredients.
- Seasoning: use Italian seasoning with salt and black pepper to bring classic Italian flavors to this dish.
- Vegetables: use a classic trio of onion, carrot, and celery to make a great savory base for the soup that’s also packed with essential nutrients.
- Tomatoes: use diced (or crushed) tomatoes as well as tomato paste for a tomato base in this soup that works well with the meatballs.
- Seasoning: fresh garlic cloves, Italian seasoning, salt, red pepper flakes, and a bay leaf will pack a ton of classic Italian flavor into this soup, with a bit of a kick too!
- Broth: I use low-sodium chicken broth to add a great depth of savory flavor, and also to better control the saltiness of the dish.
- Cheese: use a parmesan rind if you can, as it melts wonderfully into the soup, giving it a deep, rich, umami, cheesy flavor. Simply pull it out before serving.
- Pasta: I’ve used uncooked ditalini pasta here as I think it works well with the meatballs. You can use any small pasta that you have!
- Spinach: fresh spinach leaves add color, a fresh flavor, and nutrients to this soup. You can also swap with fresh kale if you have it on hand.
- Marinara Sauce: use your favorite brand of marinara sauce to add even more tomato flavor to the soup.
How to Make Italian Meatball Soup
This recipe takes a bit of time but is worth it all! Full instructions are included in the recipe card below.
- Make meatball mixture: Combine the bread crumbs, beef, pork, cheese, egg, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper, then let the mixture sit.
- Make meatballs and sear: Make meatballs, then brown them on both sides. Remove them from the pot and set them aside.
- Sauté veggies: Sauté the onion, carrots, and celery.
- Add other ingredients: Add the tomato paste, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf, and cook.
- Deglaze and add broth, tomatoes, and cheese: Stir the chicken broth, diced tomatoes, and Parmesan rind, then deglaze the pot and cook.
- Add pasta and meatballs: Stir in the pasta and meatballs, then cover and cook. Stir in spinach and marinara sauce before serving.
Italian Meatball Soup FAQs
Absolutely! Substitute the meatballs with a vegetarian alternative and use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. You will also want to choose a vegetarian cheese.
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. As it sits, the flavors will meld together, so the leftovers are delicious too! Make sure to allow it to cool to room temperature before putting it in the fridge.
Keep in mind that the pasta will soften in texture as it sits. If you want to serve it later, you may want to leave the pasta out, cook it separately and add it to each bowl before serving.
This soup freezes well. Pour the soup once it has cooled to room temperature into airtight containers or freezer bags, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw the soup overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat it gently on the stove over medium heat, stirring occasionally. If the soup is too thick, add a little bit of broth or water to reach your desired consistency.
Again, the texture of the pasta will change, so you can leave it out and cook before serving if you prefer.
Tips and Notes
- Don’t overmix the meatballs. Achieving tender and juicy meatballs is the first step to a successful meatball soup. When combining the meat mixture, avoid overmixing as it can result in dense meatballs. A gentle stir is all you need to bring the ingredients together.
- Let the flavors meld. Letting the meatball mixture sit for 10-20 minutes before rolling it out into balls allows the flavors to meld, resulting in more flavorful meatballs.
- Adjusting the consistency. You might want your soup to be thicker or thinner. If the soup is too thick, adding a bit more broth can easily make it thinner. If you want it thicker, remove some of the soup, blend it with an immersion blender, and add it back in. Alternatively, use a cornstarch slurry to thicken it.
- Freshen the soup when reheating it. Add a splash of lemon juice, broth or a handful of fresh parsley to rejuvenate the flavors and bring back the vibrancy of this delicious meatball soup when reheating it.
Italian Meatball Soup Variations
- Add some garnishes. Add an extra sprinkle of freshly shredded Parmesan cheese on top of the soup before serving can elevate the dish with a creamy texture and a salty kick. You can also sprinkle some fresh herbs like parsley or basil on top to add a burst of freshness and color to the dish.
- Use a different broth. Chicken, beef, or vegetable broth can be used interchangeably, depending on your preference or dietary restrictions.
- Add more veggies. This recipe is so versatile; you can add almost any of your favorite vegetables to enhance the nutritional value and flavor. Try mushrooms, zucchini, chopped bell peppers, sweetcorn, peas, or whatever seasonal vegetables you have a surplus of!
- Use other kinds of pasta. Small pastas like orzo or mini shells are excellent substitutes for ditalini, while brown rice or quinoa are great gluten-free options.
- Add extra flavor. Add a splash of lemon juice, a dollop of sour cream, some Worcestershire sauce, or additional herbs to add an extra layer of flavor to this already delicious soup.
We always have bread on our dinner table, but it’s a perfect side to any soup. Try my Homemade Breadsticks, a slice of my No Knead Artisan Bread, some classic Garlic Bread, or these Cheddar Bay Biscuits for dipping!
More Easy Meatball Recipes To Try
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- 1 slice soft bread (about ¾ cup fluffed bread crumbs)
- ½ lb ground beef
- ½ lb ground pork
- ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese (fresh if possible)
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 large carrots (peeled and chopped)
- 2 ribs celery (chopped)
- 1 small onion (finely chopped)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 can diced or crushed tomatoes (28oz/798 ml)
- 1 parmesan rind
- 1 cup ditalini pasta (uncooked)
- 2 cups spinach (roughly chopped)
- ½ cup marinara sauce
- Tear bread into small pieces and place in a food processor or blender. Process until the bread is in fine crumbs.
- In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, beef, pork, cheese, egg, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper — don’t overmix. Let sit for 10-20 minutes.
- Shape into 1″ balls (I get about 30-35) and place on a plate.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large soup pot or large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown meatballs on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. They do not have to be cooked through. Remove from the pot and set aside. (*OPTIONAL: you can also bake the meatballs if you do not want the juices in the soup — see instructions below)
- Add the carrots, celery, and onion (no need to clean out the pot!) and cook in the leftover fat from the meatballs for about 5 minutes or until crisp-tender.
- Add tomato paste, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Cook for 1 minute.
- Stir in chicken broth, diced tomatoes, and Parmesan rind and use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot to remove any browned bits. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
- Cook for 5 minutes, until the vegetables are almost tender.
- Stir in the uncooked pasta and meatballs. Cover and reduce the heat to medium, then cook for 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente.
- Stir in spinach and marinara sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Serve.
- To bake your meatballs: If you prefer not to have the extra fat and juices from the meatballs in your soup, you can bake them at 400 degrees for about 8-10 minutes or until browned on the outside.
Ingredients and Substitutions:
- Meatballs: you can use store-bought meatballs to save yourself some time if necessary. Simply throw them in with the pasta near the end of the recipe — no need to brown them first.
- Ground beef and pork: you can use almost any ground meat for these meatballs — ground chicken or ground turkey would be good, leaner options as well. You can also substitute some or all of the meat for ground Italian sausage for more flavor.
- Bread crumbs: fresh bread crumbs make meatballs so moist, but you can use dried bread crumbs in a pinch. Use about ⅓ cup dried bread crumbs in place of fresh.
- Egg: a flax egg will work just fine if you would like to make this recipe egg-free.
- Pasta: you can use any kind of short pasta here, or even broken spaghetti noodles. Keep in mind that they may require a different cooking time or absorb more moisture.
- You can make and bake the meatballs in advance and store them in the fridge for up to 4 days or the freezer for up to 3 months.
- You can chop all of the vegetables and store them in the fridge for several days before preparing this soup.
- You can prepare the soup up until the pasta is added, then store it (without the pasta and spinach) for up to 4 days in the fridge. Simply cook the pasta and stir into the soup with the spinach to serve. If you refrigerate with the pasta, it may become bloated and will not have an al dente texture.
- Store: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. As it sits, the flavors will meld together, so the leftovers are delicious too! Make sure to allow it to cool to room temperature before putting it in the fridge.
- Freeze: This soup freezes well. Pour the soup once it has cooled to room temperature into airtight containers or freezer bags, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw the soup overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat it gently on the stove over medium heat, stirring occasionally. If the soup is too thick, add a little bit of broth or water to reach your desired consistency.
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