Italian Wedding Soup is truly one of the grandest soups in this galaxy. While not traditionally served at Italian weddings (although it should be served at EVERY wedding because wedding food is usually lame-o), it got its name by marrying the likes juicy mini meatballs, vibrant vegetables and the most adorable pearl pasta in the very same soup!
My version uses sausage as the key player for my meatballs resulting in a flavor-infused broth so rich and lush (it’s slightly sherry-based as well), the lucky person (or people) you serve it to may just propose and you’ll have and Italian wedding right in your kitchen. Except if it’s your kids or best friends. Just make then do the dishes after in return.
Get ready for the amazingness you’re about to experience because the Instant Pot just took this classic soup to the next level!
Here’s How I Made It! (scroll to the bottom for the fully-written recipe):
First, let’s make make some balls. It begins with some Italian sausage (which is preferred since the sausage commands the flavor of the broth, but you can sub another sausage of your choice).
If they’re links (which they likely will be), use the tip of a good knife to slice into the casing.
Split it open, remove the meat (let’s call this the “slit ‘n split” method)…
…and place in a large mixing bowl (and obviously discard the now-destroyed and shriveled up casing).
To the bowl of sausage meat, add in some ground beef (the less lean, the better).
Crack an egg…
…slightly beat it…
…and pour it over the meat.
To that we’ll add in some flavor/binding agents. Dump in some grated Parmesan, breadcrumbs…
…seasoned salt, pepper, oregano, parsley, garlic….
…and whole milk.
Now get those hands sparkling clean because we’re about to have some fun.
Mix up the meat with all the seasonings. Really get in there and squish it around – almost like you’re making a dough.
And once all the meat has combined into what appears to a large, bound meatball, you’re good.
Now let’s take this giant mama meatball and make babies out of it! Pinch off a decent amount of meat…
…and roll it in between your palms until it forms a perfect mini meatball!
When done, they should be between the size of a pinball and ping-pong ball and you should get about 35-45 meatballs depending on the size you’ve rolled them. Set these aside.
Now take some shallots…
…and dice ’em up.
Take a few carrots…
…and dice THOSE up.
And take some celery ribs…
…and, you guessed it! Dice ’em up too.
See that bright green, leafy center rib in your celery stalk? Reserve the leaves.
Now go to the Instant Pot, add in some olive oil and heat it up.
In two batches, carefully take the meatballs…
…and flash-sear them in the pot.
Turn them over within 30 seconds of laying it into the pot and be delicate with them as, like a child, they’re still quite impressionable.
Now, carefully transfer all the flash-seared meatballs to a plate and let rest. They should NOT be fully cooked just yet.
Take a wooden spatula and scrape up any of the meat remnants from searing…
…and add in some more olive oil.
Shortly after, add in the shallots, carrots and celery…
…and sauté for a few minutes. As you sauté, keep scraping the bottom of the pot and it should become nice and clear!
Now add in some garlic and sauté for another moment…
…before adding in some fresh basil leaves.
Stir them in with everything else, just until they wilt.
Then, add in some sherry cooking wine (if you refuse to use this, you can use more broth when we add that shortly).
Allow the veggies to simmer in the sherry for a few moments.
Then, add in some chicken or garlic broth.
…garlic powder, pepper, oregano, Italian seasoning…
…the reserved leaves from the celery stalk…
…and just a bit of acini di pepe pasta (they look like little pearls).
Give everything a good stir.
Now, carefully return the lightly seared meatballs to the pot…
…and top with spinach (but DO NOT STIR that in). Secure the lid and cook at high pressure.
When done, you’ll have a blanket of spinach!
Stir it up to reveal the most glorious and beautiful soup.
Give it a quick taste (but blow on it first so you don’t burn those pretty lips). It should already be perfect in terms of a rich, savory flavor. However, should you wish to give it some more, just add a little seasoned salt and then give it another taste. If you want more, adjust to your desired salt level.
Now take a nice ladle-full of this gloriousness…
…place in a bowl…
…sink in a spoon…
…transport it to your mouth…
…and have a moment. Because tasting this soup is going to make you feel unbelievably proud.
And all done in a snap thanks to your Instant Pot!
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
- 1/2 pound ground beef (80-85% lean. The less lean, the better)
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons (6 cloves) garlic, crushed or minced
- 2 teaspoons seasoned salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons dried parsley
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 1 large egg, slightly beaten
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 large shallots, diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 3 ribs celery, diced (with green, leafy tops reserved)
- 1 tablespoon (3 cloves) garlic, crushed or minced
- 1 bunch (about 1 packed cup) fresh basil leaves, stems removed
- 1 cup cooking sherry wine (if you wish to leave this out, simply add another cup of broth. NOTE: Also, see the yellow “Jeffrey Sez” section for a word on sherry and its intensity)
- 7 cups chicken or garlic broth (such as 7 teaspoons Garlic Better Than Bouillon + 7 cups water)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt (optional. NOTE: The sherry and juices from the sausage will already give the soup a rich, savory flavor and you don’t want it to be too over the top. If you wish, once cooking is complete, stir in 1/2 teaspoon and taste. If you want more, add more to your liking. Adding salt as desired just before serving gives you the control.)
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup acini di pepe (pearl) pasta (NOTE: This may not seem like much when dry but trust me, it grows to about 3x the size and absorbs plenty of broth once cooked. While acini di pepe is preferred, you can alternatively use pastina, ditalini or orzo. If using pastina, the same amount applies as for the acini di pepe. If using ditalini or orzo, you can use up to 3/4 – 1 cup.)
- 5-8 ounces baby spinach
- In a large mixing bowl, add all the meatball ingredients and mix together well by hand (almost like making a dough) until it binds together nicely and forms one large meatball. From there, grab enough meat to roll each meatball between the size of a pinball and ping-pong ball and set aside on a plate. You should have between 35-45 when done.
- Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the Instant Pot, hit Sauté on and adjust so it’s on the More or High setting. After 3 minutes of the oil heating, add the meatballs in two batches (we don’t want them over-crowding the bottom of the pot) and flash-sear for about 30 seconds on each side. Carefully remove the meatballs with tongs or a slotted spoon when done (they’ll still be delicate and not fully cooked by this point).
- Add the other 2 tablespoons olive oil and then the shallots, carrots and celery and sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute longer. Then, add the basil leaves and stir until wilted, about 1 more minute.
- Add the sherry and simmer the veggies for 2 minutes and then add the broth, garlic salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, oregano, reserved leafy tops from celery, pasta and stir. Carefully add the flash-seared meatballs back to the pot. Then, top with spinach but do not stir. Secure the lid, move the valve to sealing position, hit Pressure Cook or Manual at high pressure for 5 minutes. Quick release when done.
- Give everything a stir and give the soup a taste. If you feel it needs some seasoned salt (many likely won’t), NOW is the time to add it (and just start with 1/2 teaspoons as mentioned in the ingredients and add more to taste).
- Ladle into bowls and enjoy!
Cooking sherry wine is a strong mix of sweet & savory. I use 1 cup in my recipe because I enjoy that intensity. However, you can absolutely halve the sherry to 1/2 cup or even 1/4 cup and just make up for it with another 1/2 cup or 3/4 cup of broth, respectively. To that point, if you feel you added more sherry than you wished, you can easily rectify this by adding more broth or simply water at the end until it’s to your liking. Or, as stated in the ingredients, you can leave the sherry out completely and sub for more broth (we want 8 cups of liquid in the pot when all’s said and done). But if you leave the sherry out, you’ll likely definitely want to add at least 1/2 teaspoon of the seasoned salt (or more to taste) to make up for flavor.
If you want even more soup, add up to another 1-2 cups of broth after pressure cooking. You can adjust any seasonings to taste at the end.
Use 1/4 cup of acini di pepe if you want minimal pasta in your soup (there will still be plenty) and no more than 1/2 cup if you want a substantial amount. Just keep in mind that we don’t want to go overboard on the pasta or this will become a creamy pearl pasta and meatball dish rather than a soup since the more pasta in the pot means the more absorbing of broth by the pasta and less for slurping as soup. It will still taste insanely delicious as a pearly, meaty pasta dish but this is a soup we’re making here! If you’re worried about your pasta portion and want more control, simply boil about 1/4 cup separately on the stove according to package directions and add to individual soup bowls when serving.
If you want a spicier soup, use hot Italian sausage instead of sweet.
Want to use a different sausage (such as chicken sausage) for your meatballs? Go for it! Just know it will alter the taste of the broth differently from Italian sausage, but it will still be delicious!
Don’t care for sausage? Feel free to make my classic meatballs here. Follow Steps 1 & 2 and then roll them into a size between a pinball to ping-pong ball.
Want the Jewish version of this soup? Try my outrageous Jewish Wedding Soup which subs mini matzo balls for the meatballs! It’ll make you kvell!