Meatballs aren’t just for marinara sauce. This incredible (and easy) slow cooker Italian Wedding soup is like a jazzier version of your favorite chicken noodle soup. This one is a true weeknight favorite because its easy to make on weeknights using precooked meatballs.
Wait. Isn’t your freezer always stocked with meatballs? Ours is. Not because I’m making them either. Its because my old grandma is amazing. She is 97 years old, is blessed with very good health and still makes her famous meatballs on a regular basis. In fact, when our meatballs supply runs low, I call her up and tell her to make more. I used to feel a tinge of guilt asking a ninety-something woman to turn off her gameshows and cook for my family but I’m pretty much convinced that meatball making is part of her longevity secret. And if they’re the secret to keeping her around, we’re more than happy to keep eating them.
You can read more about my grandma and get her famous meatball recipe through this article on The Inspired Home.
Once your freezer is properly stocked with meatballs you’ll want to eat them all the time. Of course they are delicious with Spaghetti Sauce, but thats not the only way to use them! On weeknights or anytime anyone has the sniffles, we make this incredible Italian Wedding-inspired soup. Actually, we call ours “Star Soup” because we make it with star-shaped “stelline” pasta. But you can use any small pasta you like.
The broth itself is very easy to make. Start with a simple mix of carrots, celery, onions and a little bit of garlic. If your slow cooker has a “brown” setting, you can take a minute to saute the veggies with a bit of olive oil for extra flavor. If not, just toss them in raw and add your chicken broth. Before you start that simmering, throw is a pice of parmesan cheese rind. This is very important! That little hunk of rind will infuse the broth with tons of flavor and add just enough fat to give the broth a slightly velveting, unctuous texture.
Finally, throw in your meatballs. Of course, my grandma’s homemade meatballs are amazing but if you’re in a bind store-bought Italian-stye meatballs work great too. Now just let the mixture simmer all day on the low setting.
About 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve, add your pasta. Once those are cooked through add your spinach — escarole is more traditional and that would be amazing too. Honestly though, I make this soup when I don’t have much in the house. I’m not making a special trip to the store for escarole. What we always seem to have is baby spinach. Its mild, full of nutritious, already washed, and the kids like it. Sold!
Enjoy with plenty of parmesan cheeses on top and, for the grown-ups, a glass of Sauvignon blanc. You’re going to need it when you toast my grandma’s good health.
Speaking of good health, thank you to everyone for the outpouring of love and support following my story about alopecia and depression. Your kindness has been such a blessing. I will continue to share updates as things progress and I hope that doing so will help others with their own struggles, whatever they may be.
Meanwhile, I wish you well!
Slow Cooker Italian Wedding Soup
Makes 2 quarts (about 6 servings)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 bay leaves (optional)
1 one-inch square of parmesan cheese rind
10 small, pre-cooked Italian-style meatballs (I recommend my grandma’s recipe)
4 cups low sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
1 cup stelline or other small pasta
2 cups loosely packed baby spinach, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
Garnish: extra parmesan cheese
- Combine onion, carrots, celery and garlic in a slow cooker insert. OPTIONAL: If the slow cooker has a “brown” feature, add a drizzle of olive oil and sauté until translucent.
- Add Bay leaves, meatballs, parmesan cheese rind, chicken broth plus 2 cups water. Add slow cooker cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
- During the last 20 minutes of cooking add pasta. Return cover and continue cooking until pasta is cooked. Add spinach and cook for another 5 minutes, until spinach is wilted. Discard Bay leaves and parmesan cheese rind. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Serve immediately with plenty of extra parmesan cheese for topping.