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Italian Meatball Soup

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
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Italian Meatball Soup

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This easy Italian Meatball Soup is filled with tender meatballs, veggies, and tiny pasta in a flavorful tomato broth. The perfect, simple weeknight dinner.

My Italian meatball soup recipe comes together in one pot and takes just an under an hour. It’s cozy, flavorful, and great for enjoying on a chilly evening.

The Best Italian Meatball Soup

There’s no denying it, I absolutely love soup. I have zero problems eating a hearty soup for dinner any night of this week. This Italian meatball soup is so flavorful, hearty, and comes together really quickly.

This is a one-pot soup recipe and instead of pan frying the meatballs, which makes a huge mess, we simply broil them before adding them to the soup. The meatballs end up being more tender and the cleanup is so much easier.

Adding pesto to meatballs is my secret trick–the pesto keeps them moist and adds tons of fresh flavor without having to add a ton of ingredients. Pesto is a great trick for adding flavor when you’re short on time and don’t want to chop a ton of things. Any store bought pesto will work!

The combination of flavorful meatballs, hearty veggies, and tiny pasta, or pastina, in a rich tomato broth makes for, quite possibly, the best soup ever. This recipe will be on repeat in our household for as long as it’s chilly enough to enjoy soup!

Italian Meatball Soup

What is Pastina?

Pastina is just a term that refers to “little pasta”. It’s the smallest size of pasta produced and can be found in a small star shape, stelline, or in tiny spheres, acini de pepe.

Any small format pasta will work here, even ditalini! Use whatever you have on hand, including gluten-free pastina.

How to Make Italian Meatball Soup

As with all my soups and stews, I highly recommend investing in a dutch oven. They’re perfect for soups and my dutch ovens are truly staples in my kitchen!

Tools Needed

Ingredients and Substitutions

  • Ground beef. I like to use 90/10 ground sirloin, but you could use 80/20 or really whatever you have on hand. You could also swap in ground turkey.
  • Breadcrumbs. You can use plain or italian flavored breadcrumbs here. Panko can be used if that’s all you have on hand, but it’s not my favorite for meatballs.
  • Pesto. Pesto is my secret ingredient when I want flavorful and tender meatballs without having to use a million ingredients. Any store bought pesto will do, but my favorite is DeLallo.
  • Egg. A lightly beaten egg helps bind the meatballs.
  • Milk. Soaking the breadcrumbs in milk makes them very soft and ensures that you don’t have dry meatballs ever!
  • Tomato paste. I like to throw a bit of tomato paste into the meatballs as well as into the soup. You get that really rich tomato broth without hours of simmering.
  • Veggies. I went classic here with onion, carrot, and celery. You could also add some minced fennel or any additional veggies to the broth like zucchini, squash, bell pepper, etc.
  • Chicken stock. Homemade is always best, but any good quality store bought stock can also be used.
  • Basil. Fresh basil adds so much flavor the soup.

Italian Meatball Soup Ingredients

The Process

  1. Soak the breadcrumbs. In a mixing bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the beaten egg and milk and let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are soft and have absorbed most of the liquid.
  2. Mix the meatballs. Stir in the pesto, tomato paste, and garlic powder. Finally, use your hands to mix in the ground beef, salt, and pepper, until the mixture is just combined.
  3. Scoop and broil the meatballs. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Use a 2 Tbsp scoop to portion out the meatball mixture and roll them into balls. Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet. Move an oven rack to the top third of the oven and broil the meatballs on high for 6-8 minutes, until browned. Remove from the oven and let the meatballs cool slightly.
  4. Make the soup. In a 4-5 qt dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the diced onion, carrot, and celery and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and starting to brown. Add the garlic and cook a minute more. Stir in the tomato paste, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, and dried basil, and cook for 3-4 minutes until the tomato paste has darkened in color. Stir in the chicken stock, using a wooden or silicone spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
  5. Simmer the meatballs and pasta. Bring to a simmer and add the meatballs to the pot, leaving any fat on the baking sheet. Cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Remove the lid from the soup and stir in the pastina. Simmer for another 3-5 minutes, until the pasta is just barely tender. Stir in the fresh basil leaves and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Recipe Tips & Tricks

Don’t overmix the meatballs. This is why I always mix the meatballs by hand. You can mix everything together easier and more quickly so that you don’t end up with tough, over-mixed meatballs.

Baking/broiling meatballs is better than pan frying them. This might be a hot take, but I prefer baking and broiling my meatballs for several reasons. It’s hands off, cleanup is easier, and pan-fried meatballs usually have a drier texture than baked meatballs.

Use quality chicken stock. There aren’t a lot of ingredients in this soup, so using the best is so important. If you can, make your own chicken stock. If not, buy high-quality store bought chicken stock or bone broth.

Don’t overcook the pasta. Pastina only needs 3-5 minutes to cook before it’s perfectly al dente. Keep an eye on it and taste it as it cooks to ensure you don’t end up with mushy, overcooked pasta.

Italian Meatball Soup

How to Make Perfect Meatballs

Making your own meatballs is so simple, but it can go wrong easily if you’re unfamiliar with the best tips and tricks. Here are all my best tips and tricks for making homemade meatballs for this Italian meatball soup.

Always soak your breadcrumbs. Before you even mix in the ground beef, let the breadcrumbs sit with the liquid ingredients (in this case milk and egg). The breadcrumbs absorb the liquid and become soft so you don’t end up with dry, sandy-textured meatballs.

Mix well, but don’t over work the meatballs. Over-mixing meatballs can make them tough and dense. Mix the ground meat gently with the other ingredients just until everything holds together. It’s always best to mix by hand!

Use a scoop for even cooking. I love using a cookie scoop so that I can ensure the meatballs are all the same size and that they cook evenly.

Use damp hands to roll the meatballs. Using damp hands keeps the meat from sticking and keeps them nice and smooth. 

Ways to Customize Italian Meatball Soup

I think that my version of Italian meatball soup is absolute perfection as written, but it’s also so easy to customize and adapt to your tastes.

Add some extra meat. Want a meatier soup? Add more Italian sausage or some diced pepperoni for some extra spice and texture.

Lighten things up. If you want to lean this soup out for a slightly healthier version, try using ground turkey. You’ll still get plenty of flavor, just a little lower in fat.

Add your veggies. This is a great soup for using some some odds and ends in the fridge. Some of my favorite veggies to add to lasagna soup are: spinach, kale, zucchini, bell pepper, mushrooms, etc.

Italian Meatball Soup

Storage Instructions

As with all soups, this Italian meatball soup tastes even better the next day so feel free to make it ahead of time for lunches or dinners. The pasta will continue to absorb liquid, so you may need to add some broth or water when reheating.

To store meatball soup: Cool the soup to room temperature and transfer to an airtight container. When properly stored, the soup is good for 3-5 days.

Reheating: You can reheat large batches of Italian meatball soup on the stove over medium-low heat, stirring gently until warmed through. Add additional water or broth as needed to reach your desired consistency. 


Whenever the mood for a cozy dinner strikes, this Italian Meatball Soup is ready! It’s so flavorful and comes together quickly and easily. If you do give this recipe a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. Be sure to subscribe to my weekly newsletter and never miss a new recipe! You can also snap a photo & tag @JENNYGOYCOCHEA on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your SMF creations!

More Soup Recipes to Try

5-Bean Vegetarian Chili
Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons
Lasagna Soup
Epic French Onion Soup
Chicken Orzo Soup

This post contains affiliate links from which I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Affiliate links allow me to keep providing great recipes for free and I never recommend products that I don’t love and personally own.

Italian Meatball Soup
Soup, Soups

Italian Meatball Soup

This easy Italian Meatball Soup is filled with tender meatballs, veggies, and tiny pasta in a flavorful tomato broth. The perfect, simple weeknight dinner.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Makes: 4 -6 servings

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs, plain or italian
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons pesto
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 ½ lbs 80/20 ground beef or sirloin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 7 cups chicken stock
  • 7 oz pastina pasta (mini stars, alphabet, acini de pepe)
  • ½ cup torn basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • Grated parm, for garnish

Instructions

  • Soak the breadcrumbs. In a mixing bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the beaten egg and milk and let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are soft and have absorbed most of the liquid.
  • Mix the meatballs. Stir in the pesto, tomato paste, and garlic powder. Finally, use your hands to mix in the ground beef, salt, and pepper, until the mixture is just combined.
  • Scoop and broil the meatballs. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Use a 2 Tbsp scoop to portion out the meatball mixture and roll them into balls. Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet. Move an oven rack to the top third of the oven and broil the meatballs on high for 6-8 minutes, until browned. Remove from the oven and let the meatballs cool slightly.
  • Make the soup. In a 4-5 qt dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the diced onion, carrot, and celery and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and starting to brown. Add the garlic and cook a minute more. Stir in the tomato paste, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, and dried basil, and cook for 3-4 minutes until the tomato paste has darkened in color. Stir in the chicken stock, using a wooden or silicone spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
  • Simmer the meatballs and pasta. Bring to a simmer and add the meatballs to the pot, leaving any fat on the baking sheet. Cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Remove the lid from the soup and stir in the pastina. Simmer for another 3-5 minutes, until the pasta is just barely tender. Stir in the fresh basil leaves and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Serve. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a drizzle of olive oil, grated parm, and more fresh basil. Serve alongside crusty bread.

Nutrition

Calories: 645kcalCarbohydrates: 48gProtein: 34gFat: 35gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 118mgSodium: 1218mgPotassium: 1091mgFiber: 4gSugar: 13gVitamin A: 2494IUVitamin C: 12mgCalcium: 94mgIron: 5mg

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