California Italian Wedding Soup

Last week we celebrated my husband’s birthday and his birthday dinner request happened to be my Rotini With Turkey Meatballs. Since I was making meatballs already for our dinner, I decided to make a double batch and make a little California Italian Wedding Soup for our soup this week.

Each family member has their own favorite soup. My daughter loves my chicken & noodle soup and now begs for it every time she has a tiniest bit of ache or pain. She claims that this soup is the only thing that could make her feel better. My son flips for my Pesto Chicken Tortellini Soup and asks for this weekly. My Greek Lemon Chicken Soup is my new favorite thing… in fact, I can almost taste it! My husband though firmly states that this California Italian Wedding Soup is the most comforting and satisfying soup on our family’s soup agenda.  Satisfyingly hardy with meatballs blended with ground turkey & beef , but also surprisingly light with fresh basil, spinach, and hints of lemon in every bite… it truly is a delicious soup treat for the whole family.

You won’t believe how easy it is to make this soup and with a double batch of baked meatballs in the fridge, you will have a great soup to feed a small army with a minimal amount of effort!

Grab four carrots out of your crisper drawer and chop them in small even pieces for your soup. This is a great time to get rid of any carrots that have lost some of their crispness since we will be cooking them up!

In a pot of salted & boiling water, add one cup of any small pasta that might be lurking in your pantry. I love to use small shells or orzo for this dish since those are two pastas we always have on hand. Cook as directed on the package.

In another pot, add a couple of tablespoons to the bottom of the pot and then add carrots, salt, and pepper. Let them cook for five minutes. Add two cloves of minced garlic to the pot and let the garlic cook for one minute. Be careful and don’t have your heat up too high for this or the garlic will burn.

You can now add the broth to your carrots and garlic. Add two boxes (eight cups) of low-sodium chicken broth. Next, you will add your secret weapon…one can of beef broth.  This is going to add to the meaty taste of your soup since you are baking your meatballs instead of cooking them in the soup. Finally, add the zest of one lemon to the broth. Save this lemon since we will be adding the juice to the broth later!

Pull your meatballs out of your fridge and add them to your soup broth along with your drained & cooked pasta. If you don’t have any meatballs on hand, you can use our recipe below for an easy (and lower fat) way of cooking meatballs for your dishes. Now that I bake my meatballs, I will never make them any other way again! These are full of flavor with Italian breadcrumbs, cheese, and a hint of tomato. I promise, they are just as delicious as the fried versions and incredibly moist and flavorful.  Yum.

Add the final ingredients to your soup! Mix in fresh spinach, freshly chopped basil, and the juice of one lemon. Give your soup a taste and check your seasonings. Ladle into bowls and serve with a side of my Portuguese White BreadPumpkin Cornbread Muffins, an Artisan Loaf, or my Homemade Whole Wheat Bread to make a delicious accompaniment.

California Italian Wedding Soup

8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 can (2 cups) beef broth
1 lemon, zested (save the juice for finishing the dish)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 carrots, chopped into uniform pieces
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup pasta (preferably orzo or small shells)
1 pound of prepared meatballs (see recipe below)
2 cups fresh baby spinach
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil
Juice from one lemon
Parmesan cheese (for sprinkling on your finished bowls)

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until tender. Drain, and rinse under cool running water. Meanwhile, in  a large saucepan or Dutch oven, saute the carrots in two tablespoons of olive oil for five minutes to start your soup base or you can skip this step and proceed as directed, if you desire a crunchier vegetable. Add the minced garlic and cook for one minute (being careful to not allow the garlic to burn).   Heat up the broth (chicken & beef) and add the zest of one lemon, allowing the broth to simmer.   Gently add your cooked meatballs to the pot.  Reduce heat and cook until the meatballs are heated through. Toss in a handful of fresh chopped basil, the juice of one lemon, and fresh spinach.  Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Baked Turkey Meatballs

This recipe will give you a double batch of meatballs. I recommend using the other half of this recipe for our Homemade Spaghetti & Meatballs, Rotini With Turkey Meatballs, or a fun make-your-own meatball sub night for a busy weeknight dinner!

1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound Italian turkey sausages (remove the casings)
1 pound lean ground beef

In a medium bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, milk,tomato paste,Parmesan cheese, and the salt and pepper. Add the turkey & ground beef, then gently stir to combine. Make your meatballs the standard size and put them on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for ten to fifteen minutes. When done cooking, drop in the baked meatballs for a few minutes. This will be just as delicious with a lot less mess and fewer calories.

This concludes my soup series as we move into fun grilling ideas and dishes for Spring. I hope you have gotten a little soup inspiration here and are enjoying the picture tutorials to go along with our recipes too! I would love to hear your feedback!

Published March 21, 2011 by:

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of You can read all about her here.

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