Garlic Girl’s Italian Wedding Soup with Quinoa

I know what you’re thinking: Quinoa doesn’t traditionally belong in Italian Wedding Soup! And you’d be right, but I’m so happy I went beyond tradition and replaced the more traditional pastina with quinoa. Not only did it up the nutrient content, but it created a deliciously flavorful soup with a wonderful consistency. 

My memories of enjoying wedding Soup as a child are clouded because my Auntie Vicky used to make the most delicious Italian meatball soup, but she never called it wedding soup. I know my mom made a similar version, but again, I don’t recall her ever calling it anything but Italian meatball soup. Whatever it was, it was amazing with it’s savory taste, mini tasty meatballs mixed with greens and pastina (mini pasta).

Because it was one of my favorite food memories I’ve made it throughout the years, and not surprisingly, also never called it wedding soup – until now! Wedding soup is simply the ”marriage” of the flavors of the meat with the greens that form a wonderful union! So don’t get stuck on the idea that there’s only one authentic wedding soup recipe, or that you have to be Italian – or even at a wedding to enjoy! Some versions include egg, some combine chicken and beef stock, some use escarole (which I also love), some use veal meatballs, Italian sausage or pork and beef, etc. And now, starting right here, some include quinoa!!

I made this version using an idea that my favorite Lidia Bastianich used for the base that includes making a paste with fresh vegetables, and I’ll use that idea again and again for many soup bases to come. So here’s a “marriage” of my mom’s recipe, my Auntie Vicky’s recipe and a splash of Lidia. I hope you try it. And as with all soups, feel free to play with the ingredients.

Garlic Girl’s Italian Wedding Soup


For the stock
2 large beef soup bones (ask the butcher or find them in the frozen meat section). Femer bones are great because they have the most marrow.
1 large onion, peeled and halved
1 whole celery stalk, chopped in half (leaves included)
2 bay leaves
2 carrots (optional)

Note: If you have a favorite beef stock recipe, feel free to use it!

Vegetable Paste for Soup
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced horizontally
3 zuchinni, cut in large pieces
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled
3 celery ribs, cut in large pieces
handful fresh basil leaves

1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup half and half or milk
1 large egg
2 teaspoons dried parsley
Kosher salt to taste
ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder

1 or 2 medium onions, halved and then thinly sliced horizontally
1/8 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1-2 heads curly endive
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated

Prepare quinoa according to package instructions. It’s very similar to making brown rice if you’ve never made it. Once done, toss with a little butter and set aside until the soup is ready. (You can be making the soup while it’s cooking).

For the stock, fill large stock pot with water, add all stock ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat, partially cover and simmer for about 3 hours, skimming the top occasionally. Remove the bones and veggies and discard (the veggies will be almost gelatinous so you don’t want to use them for the soup). Pour stock through a strainer and set aside. You can absolutely make this ahead of time, even freeze it for when you’re ready to use it.

For the paste, in a food processor, combine all ingredients for paste (except the olive oil) and mince well. Now in a large heavy bottom pot, heat olive oil on medium, add the paste and cook for about 10 minutes, turning over repeatedly, until it’s a bit dry. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the meatballs, in a medium bowl, add the bread crumbs and half and half and let soak for about five or so minutes. Add the rest of the meatball ingredients and with your hands mix very well. Form little meatball (about the size of a large cherry) with your hands damp so the meat doesn’t stick to your hands.

Now the easy part: Pour about six quarts of the broth over the paste into the heavy bottom pan that you cooked it in and bring to boil. Use as much broth as you want as long as your pot won’t overflow after adding ingredients. Now add the meatballs, several at a time, and turn the heat down slightly if the boil is too heavy. After a few minutes the meatballs will be rising to the top – this means they are cooked.

At this point you can adjust the flavor of the soup if you need more salt. Now add the parsley, onions and the endive and simmer for about 20 minutes.

When ready to serve, place some quinoa at the bottom of an individual soup bowl, ladle out some of the veggies and meatballs, and then add some broth. Sprinkle a generous amount of the Pecorino cheese, garnish with some fresh parsley and you’re all set!

Serving Suggestion:

Let the slurping begin!