beef meatball, orzo and fresh spinach soup

The classic dish, Italian Wedding Soup, was the inspiration for this dish. I learned through researching a few Italian Wedding Soup recipes that the origins of the dish are in fact Italian, but not at all related to wedding celebrations. The term "wedding soup" is a mistranslation of the Italian phrase "minestra maritata" or "married soup," which is a reference to the fact that leafy green vegetables and meats go well together. This recipe combines fresh spinach with homemade beef meatballs and orzo pasta. The addition of a few unusual ingredients including lemon zest and fresh thyme help to heighten and brighten the flavors. I would suggest pairing this soup with a bright red wine such as a Pinot Noir or Grenache to cut through the fat of the beef.


Beef Meatballs:

  • Ground beef (1 pound)

  • White onion (1/2 cup, finely chopped)

  • Bread crumbs (1/2 cup)

  • Egg (1 large)

  • Fresh garlic (1 teaspoon, finely chopped)

  • Fresh ginger (1 teaspoon, finely chopped)

  • Grated Parmesan cheese (1/3 cup)

  • Fresh parsley (1/3 cup, finely chopped)

  • Fresh lemon zest (1/2 teaspoon)

  • Lemon juice (1 teaspoon)

  • Salt (1 teaspoon)

  • Ground black pepper (1 teaspoon)



  • Olive oil (2 tablespoons)

  • Butter (1 tablespoon)

  • Carrot (2 large carrots, diced)

  • White onion (1/2 cup, finely chopped)

  • Fresh thyme (2 teaspoons, leaves removed from stems)

  • Salt (2 teaspoons)

  • Ground black pepper (1 teaspoon)

  • Lemon juice (1 teaspoon)

  • Chicken broth (6 cups)

  • Orzo (2 cups)

  • Fresh spinach leaves (4 cups)

  • Grated Parmesan cheese (1/4 cup for garnish)


  1. To allow the flavors of the broth to develop, first create the soup base. 

  2. Heat olive oil and butter in a large Dutch oven. Add carrot, white onion, fresh thyme, salt and pepper and saute for 6 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked through.

  3. Add chicken broth and lemon juice and simmer on low heat while you prepare the meatballs. Taste and add additional salt if necessary.

  4. To prepare the meatballs, blend in a large mixing bowl all of the meatball ingredients listed above. You can blend using your hands or a wooden spoon.

  5. Form the meatballs into small balls (preferably the size of a quarter) and place on a separate plate.

  6. Spray a large stainless steel skillet with non-stick spray and heat. Add the meatballs and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until evenly browned.

  7. Transfer the meatballs from the skillet to the simmering broth.

  8. Add the orzo pasta to the broth and cook along with the meatballs, for 8 minutes, until al dente.

  9. Add the spinach and finish cooking the soup for another 2 minutes.

  10. Serve in bowls and garnish with additional Parmesan cheese.