Going off nothing but the name, I always imagined Italian wedding soup to be a first course served at Italian weddings. When I took the time to research my assumption, I quickly learned this isn’t the case at all. Italian wedding soup has nothing to do with weddings. In Italian, the soup made with pasta or rice, meat, and vegetables is called minestra maritata, which translates to “married soup.” It is called this because of the flavorful matrimony that occurs as the soup ingredients are simmered and blended together.
Italian wedding soup, which originated in the southern Italian region of Campania, was traditionally made with leftover meat, broth, and whatever green vegetables were available - chicory, cabbage, escarole, chard, spinach, and endive were common. The American version is much lighter, using smaller meatballs and fewer vegetables. My Vegan Italian Wedding Soup is inspired by this Italian dish and is a welcome comfort during these chilly winter months.
This Vegan Italian Wedding Soup features mini vegan meatballs made from a mixture of oats, cauliflower, lentils, and Italian seasonings. Tip: make a batch of mini vegan meatballs as part of your weekly meal prep and store them in the freezer. This soup instantly becomes an easy weekday lunch or dinner!
Just reheat the mini vegan meatballs in a warm oven or in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop. They’re slightly crisp on the outside and chewy and flavorful inside. So delicious!
You can use any small-shape pasta can in this Vegan Italian Wedding Soup. If you want to go the authentic route, look for acini de pepe, the tiniest of pasta shapes. It’s similar in appearance to pearled couscous. I used a box of orzo I already had in my pantry and the small, rice-like shape worked perfectly. For the vegetable, use your favorite green. Many recipes for Italian wedding soup call fore escarole, but I decided to use baby spinach.
Unlike traditional Italian wedding soup, the mini vegan meatballs in this version should not be simmered in the broth. They’re somewhat delicate and they’d certainly fall apart! Ladle the soup into bowls, add a few mini vegan meatballs to each, and dig in. Store any leftover mini vegan meatballs in a separate container to prevent them from getting soggy in the fridge.Print
- 1 batch of mini vegan meatballs (recipe follows)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ yellow onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- A few twists of black pepper
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- ⅔ cup acini de pepe or orzo
- 3 ounces escarole, baby spinach, or another leafy green
- Freshly cracked black pepper
For the mini vegan meatballs:
- ¾ cup gluten-free old fashioned rolled oats
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
- 3 tablespoons water
- 2 cups cauliflower florets
- 1 cup cooked lentils (I used the steamed lentils from Trader Joe’s)
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, for cooking
For the mini vegan meatballs
- Pour the old fashioned rolled oats into the bowl of your food processor and run until the oats have broken down into a fine meal. Transfer the oat flour to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the ground flaxseed and water and stir to combine. Set aside to allow the “flax egg” to set.
- Bring a medium-sized saucepan of water to a boil and add the cauliflower florets. Boil the cauliflower until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and transfer the cauliflower to the bowl of your food processor.
- Add the cooked lentils to your food processor and pulse several times to chop up the cauliflower and incorporate it with the lentils.
- Scoop the lentil and cauliflower mixture into the bowl with the oat flour. Add the parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, paprika, salt, and flax egg. Mix thoroughly to combine all of the ingredients and adjust the seasonings to taste (I added another pinch of salt).
- Using a tablespoon, scoop the vegan meatball mixture into small piles. Split each pile in two and roll the mixture between your palms to form the mini vegan meatballs. Each vegan meatball should be about ½ tablespoon.
- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Place the cauliflower lentil balls in the hot skillet, working in batches if needed, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. When done, the mini vegan meatballs should be golden brown and crispy on all sides. Set aside to cool.
For the soup
- Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and season with oregano, salt, and black pepper. Sauté the veggies for 5 minutes, until slightly softened.
- Add the chopped garlic to the pot and sauté for a minute more.
- Pour the vegetable broth into the pot and turn the heat to medium-high. Bring the soup to a boil, then add the orzo.
- Lower the heat slightly to maintain a gentle boil for 9 to 10 minutes, until the orzo is tender. Turn off the heat. Add the baby spinach to the soup pot and stir until wilted.
- Ladle the Vegan Italian Wedding Soup into bowls and add 5 or 6 mini vegan meatballs to each. Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper and enjoy warm.