Cannellini bean meatballs, tender spinach, fennel, and orzo pasta go into this cozy vegan Italian wedding soup.
I promise to cut it out with the meatballs after this one. I have no more meatball recipes in the queue, and in fact, I've been hanging on to this one for a while. Like, somewhere around a year.
When I first made this soup last year, I held back on posting it, because I'd been posting too many meatball recipes, as well as too many soup recipes (surprise, surprise). When I finally felt like I was in the clear as far as soup and meatballs were concerned, it was probably about the middle of summer, and who wants to eat meatball soup when it's ninety degrees out? Well, maybe I do, but that's beside the point.
So I held out longer, and eventually decided I didn't like the photos and wanted to tweak the recipe (originally I used kale for a twist, but spinach works better). And I ended up back in the middle of comfort food season (a.k.a. soup and meatballs season), and you can guess what that meant for my recipes.
This, this, this, this, this, and...okay I'll stop. But yeah, I made this for the second time back in January, which is why the photos are so dark. But, when you think about it, with fennel and spinach and the broth being kind of light, it's a pretty springy soup. So maybe it's a good thing that I hoarded it for a while.
I've never had traditional Italian wedding soup, but I always thought it was a cool idea, you know, except for the meat part. My mom made it a bunch of times when I was growing up, but always after I stopped eating meat, so I never got it to try it. But I did get her to talk me through the recipe so I could make a vegan version.
The main distinction in my recipe is that the meatballs are made out of cannellini beans, and because of this, you've got to be a little careful about how you serve it. The bean balls get baked up, and you'll want to keep them out of the soup until you're ready to serve it. Otherwise they might get super soggy and I'm thinking they could even fall apart. Aside from meatballs you've got some fresh spinach, fresh fennel, carrots, and little bits of orzo pasta. It's super cozy and perfect for those chilly and rainy spring days.
Tips for Making Delicious Vegan Italian Wedding Soup
- Feel free to substitute your favorite greens for the spinach. I've also used kale. Chard would work nicely too! You'll probably need to increase the cook time a bit, as most greens take a bit longer to cook than spinach.
- If you have leftovers, be sure to store the meatballs and soup separately, as the meatballs will probably get soggy and fall apart if they sit in the soup too long.
- Save time the day of serving by blending up the meatball mixture a day or two in advance. Store the mixture in the fridge, then roll and bake them when you're ready to serve.
Vegan Italian Wedding Soup
For the Cannellini Bean Meatballs
- 1 (14 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- About 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the Soup:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1 medium fennel bulb, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ¾ cup dried orzo pasta
- 6 cups chopped fresh spinach
Make the Meatballs:
Preheat the oven to 400° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place all ingredients except for the olive oil into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until all ingredients are well chopped and mixed, stopping to scrape down the inside of the bowl as needed.
Roll into ½ inch balls (you should get about 35) and arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly spray or brush with olive oil.
Bake for about 30 minutes, turning once about halfway through, until the meatballs are nicely browned.
Make the Soup:
Coat the bottom of a large pot with olive oil and place it over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion, carrots and fennel. Sauté until the veggies begin to soften a bit, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until very fragrant, about 1 minute more. Stir in the wine and bring it to a simmer. Cook until reduced by about half, about 4 minutes. Add in the broth and thyme and raise heat to high. Bring to a boil, lower heat and allow to simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Stir in the orzo and spinach. Continue to simmer until the orzo is fully cooked and the spinach is tender, about 8 minutes.
Ladle the soup into bowls, then add a few meatballs to each bowl. serve.