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
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
  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.
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
Recipe by Joanne Eats Well With Others at