Mary Ann's Blog

Escarole and Meatball Soup

One of the most beloved soups of southern Italy and served at many a wedding where it is known as wedding soup (minestra maritata), escarole and meatball soup is welcome anytime but especially now when sturdy heads of escarole are available. Escarole is an essential ingredient for this soup but besides that, it is also loaded with vitamins. Some cooks like to add tiny soup pasta like acini di pepe or orzo to the simmering soup.

Escarole and Meatball Soup
Serves 8

For the broth

1 large onion, peeled
10 to 12 whole cloves
2 large celery stalks with leaves, cut into quarters
2 large carrots, scraped and cut into quarters
1 large bay leaf
1 small bunch parsley
3 fresh sprigs thyme
3 pounds chicken wings
1 large lemon, thinly sliced into rounds, seeds removed
1 head escarole, cleaned and coarsely chopped
Salt to taste
Grinding black pepper
Grated Pecorino cheese to sprinkle on top

For the meatballs

1/3-cup fresh breadcrumbs, crust removed
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 pound ground veal or chuck
1 small egg
1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Grinding black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Stud the onion with the cloves and place in a large soup pot with the celery, carrots, bay leaf, parsley thyme, chicken wings and lemon slices. Cover the ingredients with water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to simmer so that the water is barely moving. Cover the pot and cook for 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile make the meatballs.

In a small bowl combine the breadcrumbs with the milk and set aside.
In a medium bowl add the veal or chuck, egg, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper and the soaked breadcrumbs. Make meatballs the size of marbles.
Grease a rimmed baking sheet with the olive oil and place the meatballs o the sheet as you make them.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
Transfer the meatballs to a bowl and refrigerate them. These can be made three days ahead.

Remove the chicken wings from the pot and set aside on a cutting board. Strain the broth through a sieve, pressing on the vegetables to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids and return the broth to the pot. Bring to a boil and stir in the escarole. Cook 3 to 4 minutes just until the escarole wilts. Add the meatballs to the broth. Remove the meat from the chicken wings and add it to the broth. Correct the seasoning and add grated Pecorino cheese on top. Serve hot.

Recipe from Ciao Italia Family Classics by Mary Ann Esposito





  1. Daria's avatar


    This looks really good! And I like it that it has both pork and chicken meat. Sounds like it is twice as delicious having both. :D

    As it happens, I found another version of an Italian wedding soup. But it uses Parmesan instead of Pecorino cheese. And aside from escarole (endive) it also has kale. Like other Italian dishes, do wedding soups vary from region to region, or city to city?
  2. mary ann esposito's avatar

    mary ann esposito

    Hi Daria,

    You are so right; the ingredients vary from cook to cook; that is the beauty of Italian cooking!
  3. Lisa's avatar


    Do you have to use chicken wings or shredded breasts?
  4. Kim's avatar


    I can't wait to try this! This appears to be the closest recipe to my grandfather's (which was never written down and I can't totally remember). He had the grandchildren roll the meatballs. He was very particular about the size...smaller than a pea! It took forever to roll them! LOL
  5. Daria's avatar


    Oh, that's great insight into Italian cuisine. Thanks, Mary Ann!

    By the way, here's that wedding soup recipe I was talking about.

    Do you know which city or region this might have come from?

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