Italian wedding soup just like grandma used to make, but with eggplant-based veggie balls in place of the traditional meatballs! Comfort food at its best.
Italian wedding soup with veggie balls

You’re probably not supposed to play favorites with your recipes. I think that’s actually the numero uno, cardinal rule of Food Blogging 101.

But youuuuu gggguuuuyyyyssss.

I just can’t help myself.

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Growing up, Italian wedding soup with mini meatballs was the thing my grandmother used to make. I mean, she also made marinara sauce (or gravy, as she would call it), and lasagna, and big meaty roasts, but my brother and I wanted nothing to do with any of those things.

We only wanted the soup.

I think part of the allure stemmed from the fact that my mother was incapable of making it. The meatballs, particularly. She just didn’t have the magic touch.

Or my grandmother lied and gave her the wrong recipe (<–LIKELY). We will never know the truth.

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I haven’t had it in years now (possibly decades), and when I set about to recreate it for the blog, I was worried.

Worried that I had built the soup up so much in my memories that nothing I made could compare.

Worried that my ancestors would return from the dead when they realized I was attempting to make a meat-free version of their mini meatballs.

Worried that I just wouldn’t be able to pull it off, and so would never be able to taste my grandmother’s soup again.

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I really shouldn’t have worried so much.

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This is hands down, above and beyond, the BEST THING I HAVE EVER MADE. And I don’t say that lightly.

The soup is full of so much flavor (I attribute it to the parmesan rinds, by the way), tons of nutrition, oodles of cheese-stuffed tortellini (always a good thing), and crispy delicious mini meatballs! And by meatballs, I mean eggplant-balls obviously, but that just sounds weird. It does take a bit of time to simmer away and suck as much flavor out of those veggies as possible, but all the best things in life are worth waiting for, don’t you think?

Italian Wedding Soup with Veggie Balls
 
Italian wedding soup just like grandma used to make, but with eggplant-based veggie balls in place of the traditional meatballs! Comfort food at its best.
Yield: 8-10 servings
Ingredients
For the soup
  • 1 medium onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 small carrot, cut into chunks
  • 4 clove garlic, peeled
  • 2 oz fresh basil
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3½ quarts cold water
  • 1 head escarole, cut into ½-inch shreds
  • 1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed and leaves cut into ½-inch shreds
  • 1 lb zucchini, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 parmesan rinds
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1½ lb cheese tortellini
For the veggie balls
  • 1 large eggplant, unpeeled
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 cup + ⅓ cup panko breadcrumbs, divided
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp minced parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • extra virgin olive oil, for frying
Instructions
  1. First, start the soup. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the onion, carrot, garlic, and basil. Pulse until it forms a smooth paste, called a pestata.
  2. Heat the olive oil in the soup pot over high heat and scrape the pestata into the pot. Cook, stirring until the pestata has released liquid and started to dry out a bit, about 5 minutes. Pour the cold water into the pot, scraping up the pestata from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer the broth, covered, for about 15 minutes. Stir in the greens, zucchini, parmesan rinds, and salt. Return to a simmer and cook, covered, for 25 minutes, and uncovered for 20 minutes. Add the tortellini in the last 10 minutes of cooking.
  3. While the soup simmers, prepare the veggie balls. Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes. Bring 2 quarts of water with 1 tbsp of salt mixed in to a boil over high heat. Add the eggplant and boil, uncovered, for 10 minutes, or until eggplant is cooked, pressing them down into the water regularly. Drain in a colander and push out as much water from them as you can using the back of a spoon. Finely chop eggplant.
  4. In a bowl, combine the eggplant, 1 cup of panko, cheese, parsley, and garlic. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Mix in the egg.
  5. Roll the eggplant mixture into small balls that are about 1-inch in diameter and set them on a platter. Put the remaining panko in a small bowl and roll each ball in the breadcrumbs to coat evenly. Set the coated balls on a clean tray.
  6. Pour the olive oil into a 10-inch skillet to a depth of ½ inch. Turn the heat to medium and when the oil begins to shimmer, put a test ball in the skillet. If it sizzles immediately, then the oil is hot enough. When the oil is ready, carefully put the balls in the skillet in a single layer.
  7. Fry, turning gently with a spoon, until browned all over, about 3 minutes total. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining balls until all of them have been cooked.
  8. Divide the soup evenly among 8-10 bowls and serve topped with the veggie balls.
Notes
Eggplant meatballs adapted from My Calabria: Rustic Family Cooking from Italy's Undiscovered South
Italian wedding soup adapted from Lidia Bastianich
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 bowl

 More souper soup:

tomato soup with brown butter, kale, and pistachios

Tomato Soup with Brown Butter, Kale, and Pistachios

minestrone verde

Minestrone Verde

winter minestrone

Winter Minestrone

From Around the Web:

Vegetable Soup with Garlicky Croutons from Annie’s Eats

Crockpot White Bean Soup from Lauren Kelly Nutrition

Healing Green Tea and Chickpea Soup from Top with Cinnamon

Lemony Soup with White Beans, Kale, and Pasta from Flourishing Foodie

Tortellini Soup with Artichokes from Foodiecrush

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Italian wedding soup with veggie balls
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59 Responses to Italian Wedding Soup with Veggie Balls

  1. I have made eggplant burgers/patties before, but it never occurred to me to make them smaller and use them as meatballs… that opens the door to a million recipes! Brilliant!

  2. Sune Moolman says:

    You totally made eggplant-based veggie balls a thing now.
    Not only am I making this soup, I’m having those EPballs on a sub, on grits and in a taco.
    Okaythankyougoodbye. 🙂

  3. Those are some big words put together – BEST THING?? I need to make this on the weekend…for real.

  4. I look back at all the parm rinds I throw away before knowing what they were good for and cry a little — think of all the flavor I could’ve had in my life! Any soup with cheese, pasta, and meatless meatballs is a winner to me!

  5. Monica says:

    Woah, I can feel the goodness of this soup. You’ve sold me! I also have a lot of “fear” at the thought of trying to re-create special food that I remember well from childhood. I’m so glad this turned out so well for you. It looks sensational…I usually love the broth in a soup most but I am dying for those eggplant balls!

  6. bellini says:

    This is a stunner Joanne. One we definitely all need to try.

  7. Okay. I’m going to have to make this soup right away. The veggie balls are genius and what really draws me in here. You see, I love Italian wedding soup, but most of the soups I’ve tried had meatballs that grossed me out and so I stopped eating it altogether. These veggie balls look so flavorful and… I can already tell Id make sure to sneak a few extra in my bowl. Pinning the heck out of this.

  8. Lori R. says:

    I’m sold! I cannot wait to give it a try. I’ve always loved this soup, but never made it myself. And I love the idea of the eggplant-based balls!

  9. Italian wedding soup is my absolute JAM, but seriously?? Veggie balls in the place of meatballs. I am obsessed and pretty much drooling. This looks and sounds totally fab!

  10. Well considering I’ve made some of your other recipes and loved them, that means I will be adding this to the menu asap. It’s beautiful to boot! I bet your grandma would be proud.

  11. I love those veggie balls! The soup looks so comforting and totally delicious.

  12. I cannot tell you how much I am loving your take on your grandma’s recipe! I am so loving these eggplant-balls instead of the regular meat-balls!

  13. Mira says:

    This soup looks fantastic and I love the healthier spin on it! Pinned for later!

  14. Susan says:

    You’ve sold me! Your soup looks amazingly delicious, and I don’t say that lightly either 😉 I love using a parm rind when making minestrone too.

  15. Eggplant-based veggie balls sound so good!! I have to make this soup!

  16. Trisha says:

    Grandma-inspired recipes are the best, and SO worth the time and dedication. I’ve never heard of eggplant “meatballs” before, but now I can’t get the idea out my head. Can’t wait to make this amazing soup!

  17. BEST…THING…well that settles it, I’ve got to try it. This meatless meatballs like look little pieces of golden heaven and that soup is just screaming drink me now, and I don’t even like soup. De-lish, pinning to make (no, really) this weekend!

  18. Lisa says:

    That is impressive indeed. I just adore the eggplant meatballs. Brilliant.

  19. Well hello delicious comfort food!
    Oh, and I totally play favourites with my recipes, but they change every couple of weeks.

  20. iscribbler says:

    This looks fantastic! I’ve never made eggplant meatballs, but I’m excited to give them a try! We eat soup a few days a week every week so I’m happy for such a great recipe that doesn’t look too hard to make. (I’m tempted to bake the meatballs instead of frying them, though…) Thank you for sharing and I think your ancestors will be quite happy. 🙂

  21. I am SO making this soup, Joanne. And I’m completely enamored with those eggplant based veggie balls. I bet they’d be great as an appetizer dipped in marinara or smothered in marinara served over pasta, or or or….Yum!!

  22. Kate says:

    I’m wary of veggie balls, but yours looks so crisp!

  23. Eileen says:

    NICE. This sounds like the heartiest soup ever for cold winter days! Eggplant meatballs? Such a good idea. And I especially love the sheer amount of serious greens.

  24. We love Italian wedding soup! I just made a pot myself the other day, but didn’t get to post it yet. Hopefully will do it soon! love the eggplant based veggies balls in yours – yummy idea!

  25. I can’t believe I’ve never had wedding soup before, but you make it amazingly wonderful looking. I gotta try your recipe

  26. Don’t you wish you could get married all over again, just so you could have this wedding soup at your wedding? Looks a.ma.zing.

  27. Meg says:

    This looks aaaaaamazing! My mouth is watering.

  28. Teffy says:

    Oh wow that soup looks amazing and those veggie balls look so crispy and delicious!
    Love how it’s called Italian Wedding soup. Too cool of a name!

    {Teffy’s Perks} X

  29. Reeni says:

    Love your unique version with those tasty looking eggplant balls and plump tortellini! Such a great idea!

  30. cheri says:

    Hi Joanne, love your veggie balls, great idea to use eggplant. My mother in law always has a pot of soup going and the Italian wedding is one of her specialties.

  31. Thank you for sharing this recipe that is so special to you, with us 🙂

  32. Betty says:

    Anything as good as grandma’s gets my vote. 🙂 This looks like it’s packed with flavor and things that are good for you. I buy little tubs of parmesan rinds from Wegmans- they’re good for flavoring so many things!

  33. i bet your gradma is really proud and smiling at your amazing re-creation of her recipe. the idea of veggie balls sounds fantastic.

  34. Asha says:

    What a healthy great looking soup. You know, those veggie fritters looks so much like our vadas. It looks perfect.

  35. Hotly Spiced says:

    It’s always a good idea to add parmesan rinds to the cooking. I love the look of your soup but I have never heard of Italian Wedding Soup – where have I been! xx

  36. Trisha says:

    WOW – this looks incredible. Such a unique dish.

  37. Ahaha, she gave her the wrong recipe. I can totally see that happening. Gotta keep the matriarchal cook strong. And PARM RINDS? Giiiirl

  38. grace says:

    i’ve never had anything like this, joanne! add it to the list of reasons i wish i had an italian grandmother. 🙂

  39. I didn’t grow up with Italian Wedding Soup – it’s not part of my heritage obviously – and I’ve never even tried it. I’ve seen it crop up many times all over the blogosphere, and heard people rave about it, but in all honestly the recipe is usually accompanied by some pretty “unappetising” looking photos, so it’s just never particularly appealed to me to give it a try. Until now!! Your version looks stunning with those little cheesy tortellini in it, and the little aubergine balls instead of meatballs is the absolute clincher for me. With aubergine season just getting into full swing here now, and evenings probably only a couple of weeks away from starting to get a little cooler, this is definitely on my list. I love you for sharing this xo

  40. Love the eggplant in the veggie balls. This soup needs to be had, ASAP!

  41. Katerina says:

    It is snowing two days now! I think this soup is what I need!

  42. Kelly says:

    This looks so comforting and amazing! I love that you made veggie balls and seriously want to dive right in head first! Such a great idea!

  43. I found your blog from a comment you left on my blog figs and pigs I’m so glad you did cause now I found your lovely blog and this wonderful soup, it just looks amazing like a big hug in soup form and those veggie balls YUM.

  44. Christine says:

    This was nowhere in my family’s recipe repertoire, growing up so I’ll have to catch up on lost time 🙂 Great idea to use eggplant for the meatballs, so glad your experiment came out so well. Looking forward to making this!

  45. Johanna GGG says:

    glad it was the soup you remembered and how lovely to have reclaimed it – I want to make it as it looks amazing – though I can’t imagine loving it so much as a child when soups were a bit odd

  46. Soup is my favorite! And this looks delicious 🙂 Can’t wait to try!

  47. Beth says:

    The best thing you have ever made? That’s high praise! Your soup sounds wonderful.

  48. This soup looks absolutely wonderful! I can’t wait to try some of this! It’s been so cold here and this would be a great way to warm up!

  49. […] like meatballs? And they don’t even have to be made literally of meat – like these beauties where eggplant is the star. There’s really just one two-word rule to follow when it […]

  50. Jenny says:

    Hello!

    I’m hoping to veganize this recipe and was wondering what you would recommend using instead of the cheese in the meatballs? Would nutritional yeast work, or should I just omit it?

    Thanks!

  51. This soup looks amazing! I love the pestata! Definitely going to try it out!

  52. Vanessa says:

    his soup looks tasty! I love the tortellini.

  53. Just saw this recipe posted on another site but thought I’d come and share the love back to you since it’s actually your recipe.

    So here goes: THIS LOOKS SO GOOD! Absolutely love the idea of the two textures, with the crispy balls (oo er) and the soft tortellini. Just looks so gorgeous!

  54. Erika says:

    These eggplant balls are the best thing I have eaten in a long while. Granted I reaaally love eggplant. I adapted this to be eggplant balls over tortellini with a simple marinara and it was epic.
    THANK YOU for your genius.

  55. […] Source: Adapted slightly from Joanne Eats Well With Others. […]

  56. […] Italian Wedding Soup with Veggie Balls – Eats Well With Others […]

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