Food / Main Dishes / Soups, Stews + Chili / Vegetarian

Vegetarian Italian Wedding Soup

Vegetarian Italian Wedding Soup | Killing Thyme
Meatballs, or cheatballs in this case, are never easy to photograph. But here we are, with hearty balls of goodness floating around in our tasty broth.

Truth be told, even when I was an omnivore, I hated the idea of meatballs bopping around in my soup. It grossed me out. It wasn’t until Thanksgiving a few years back when I was still dating my husband where I decided to suck it up and dive in. The wine helped, plus I wanted to be polite in front of his parents. Lo and behold, I friggin’ loved it. What had I been thinking before? As my Mom always says — don’t knock it ’til you try it.

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Vegetarian Italian Wedding Soup | Killing Thyme

I was a little nervous about making a vegetarian version; homemade plant-based meatballs are no easy feat. In my experience, anyway. If not carefully crafted, they can fall apart easily. I wasn’t sure how they would do in soup, but these bad boys held it together and made Momma proud.
Vegetarian Italian Wedding Soup | Killing Thyme

I would definitely suggest making the cheatballs in advance and keeping them in the refrigerator overnight to solidify in their form. You could also take the easy route and buy vegetarian meatballs (or take the easiest route and not add meatballs at all).

Vegetarian Italian Wedding Soup

This hearty Italian Wedding Soup is filled with savory and spice and everything nice. Vegetarian "cheatballs" replace the usual meatballs in this Italian fave.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 -6
Author Killing Thyme


  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion diced or roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic sliced
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes optional
  • 2 oz of thinly sliced carrots
  • 2 cups sliced baby spinach
  • Kosher salt + cracked black pepper
  • 8 cups Vegetable broth
  • in Vegetarian meatballs either store-bought or homemade; I used this recipe but made miniature balls and let them sit the fridge overnight to form well and stay together.
  • 1/4 cup acini de pepe pasta 1/2 cup if you like it super noodle-y; if it gets too noodle-y for you, just add more broth
  • Freshly grated romano or parmesan cheese
  • Fresh parsley chopped


  • Heat olive oil in a stockpot.
  • Add the garlic, onions and chili flakes; sauté until garlic is fragrant and onions are tender. Careful not to brown the garlic.
  • Add carrots and spinach; sauté until the spinach wilts. Add a splash of vegetable broth is the stockpot dries out.
  • Season with salt + pepper.
  • Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil.
  • Add "cheatballs" + acini di pepe.
  • Simmer on low until acini di pepe swells and becomes tender.
  • Serve into bowls and garnish with freshly grated parm, chopped fresh parsley and a nice hunk of buttered bread.


Find the "Cheatballs" recipe here:


  • Guillermo Valencia Chef & Restaurateur
    October 3, 2019 at 9:18 am

    […] They add just the right amount of crunch on top, without having to rely on bread crumbs 14. Vegetarian Italian Wedding Soup: A cozy bowl of soup is the perfect meal on chilly days. This Italian wedding soup is comforting, […]

  • Maura Howe
    February 19, 2019 at 4:30 pm

    Looking forward to trying this out! Quick question: when you say make the “cheat balls” the night before and leave them in the fridge, do you mean uncooked? And then pan sear them up the next day? Or make, cook, and then refrigerate? Thanks!

    • Killing Thyme
      February 19, 2019 at 5:56 pm

      Hi Maura!
      Place the cheat balls in the fridge uncooked. They’ll solidify nicely so when you go to cook them up, they won’t fall apart. I hope that helps!

  • […] Vegetarian Italian Wedding Soup from Killing Thyme … you’re going to love the veggie-version of this classic Italian soup. […]

  • Kellie MacMillan
    January 27, 2017 at 7:12 pm

    Cheat balls! Best freakin name ever.
    I’m a vegetarian and make ‘faux’ versions of food all the time and can’t for the life of me come up with amaze balls (pun intended) titles like this. I’ve actually considered hiring a think tank or something to help. Mabs I should just hang around with you more. lol
    I usually use the vegetarian ‘meatballs’ and have been thinking of trying to create something of my own, but most of the recipes out there that I have tried are quiet honestly just crap! and then I end up with a big plate of expensive crap that I’ve invested a whole day on. It’s a heartless place out there sometimes but I’m so gladI have a recipe like this from someone I know and trust to turn things around for me.
    I am totally Pinning, bookmarking, saving the snot out of this recipe.
    You have restored my faith in humanity Dana. Kudos to you!!!
    Kellie from Princess & The Yard Ape

    • Killing Thyme
      January 28, 2017 at 9:29 am

      Haha, thanks Kellie! I’m a walkin’ talkin’ bad dad joke; it’s in my blood. I definitely thank my father for my sense of humor :)

      There are a lot of iffy cheatball recipes out there and quite frankly, they can be a real pain in the ass to make for a mediocre result. I definitely think you’re doing yourself a favor by refrigerating any plant-based meat patties and such ahead of time. I think it’s also important to go into it knowing that they aren’t going to taste or feel like meatballs, but you’re just trying to get the essence of them. With that said, I do want to try to figure out a way to replicate the bounciness and juiciness you get from a meatball. My wheels are turnin’. Haha.

      Thanks for the fun comment, Kellie. I’ll try to help in any way that I can when it comes to plant-based replacements!

  • Sean
    January 27, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    I haven’t tried homemade cheatballs yet either (I’ve had enough trouble getting veggie burgers to stay together, so yeah, I’m a little hesitant), but a) you’ve given me some hope here, and b) I love the idea of having a vegetarian Italian wedding soup. For that matter, I love the idea of having a veggie-based faux-meatball that might kids might actually eat without questioning what’s gone into it. Fingers crossed.

    By the way I think it’s funny that you were so resistant to the idea of meatballs in soup. It’s weird the ideas that get stuck in our minds. I hated tortellini as a kid and I have no idea why… one day in my early teens I realized it was just pasta and meat or cheese, and all of those things appealed to me. I have no idea what I had been thinking up until that point.

    • Killing Thyme
      January 28, 2017 at 9:12 am

      Honestly, I don’t understand veggie burgers myself half the time. My black bean burger recipe worked perfectly the first time, and the second time, they fell apart as soon as I took a bite. Everything just fell out of the bun – yet I did everything the same. I’m determined to figure it out, though. I find cheatballs easier. A quick sear in a pan to seal the exterior and I’m usually good to go. One or two will be a little dilapidated, but the rest are usually fine. These bad boys were best the second day, so I recommend making cheatballs (and hey, maybe veggie burgers) a day ahead of time. I think that time in the fridge let’s them bind together extra nice.

      Haha, I liked tortellini but also questioned it. Like it was the cheap-o version of ravioli that didn’t want to give me a lot of filling, just a tease. Dicks. But yeah, oddly tortellini in soup I was okay with. For me, it was the idea of wet meatballs. Wet by not sauce, but something watery. Haha. I’m glad we’ve gotten over these things :)

  • Loreto Nardelli
    January 27, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    Hi Danika, this soup looks so scrumptious and I am glad you surpassed the fear and did Veggie instead of meat. It us funny how some things can be a real turn off and they say first we smell then we see and finally we taste, so if we are turned off half way through means for a very long meal. The wine would help such a great persuader. I would love to try this soup tge flavors aND colors are so appealing! Great job on this one!
    Have a great weekend!

    • Killing Thyme
      January 28, 2017 at 9:02 am

      Thanks, Loreto! I always love to hear from my two fave Italians when I make an Italian-inspired dish ;)

      You’re so right about first eating with your sense of smell, then eyes. It’s amazing any of us have ever tried pate – because it looks and smells terrible, but dang it tastes good on a cracker. Lol.

      I hope you have a marvelous weekend, Loreto!

  • The Finer Cookie/Kim
    January 27, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    I’ve never heard of a wedding soup. Is it really served at weddings? It looks super. Great pictures too. Tx.

    • Killing Thyme
      January 28, 2017 at 8:57 am

      Thanks, Kim!
      So, okay. It *is* typically served at American-Italian weddings, but because of the name rather than the other way around. “Wedding soup” stems from an Italian language phrase that translates to “married soup”, referring to the flavor combo that results from the greens, the broth and the meat; the marriage of flavors. Kinda neat, huh?

  • Eyecandypopper
    January 27, 2017 at 10:53 am

    haahahaha I totally agree with you, I cannot stand big chunks or meatballs in my soup! In fact, even though I occasionally eat meat, I’m not a big fan of meat in my soups in general. I don’t mind chicken broth, but don’t like to find pieces of it. lol This looks beautiful and delicious, and super filling! Yum!

    • Killing Thyme
      January 27, 2017 at 11:19 am

      It’s funny, because while I had this aversion I was totally okay with meat tortellini in my soup — but bare meatballs? No way.

      This soup definitely is filling and makes for a great meal on it’s own. And best of all, no meat bobbin’ around in there. Haha.

  • Britney @ Savour & Shine
    January 27, 2017 at 10:51 am

    Italian Wedding Soup is my fave! Can’t wait to try this veggie friendly version! Definitely my next Meatless Monday meal :)

    • Killing Thyme
      January 27, 2017 at 11:16 am

      Awesome! I hope you love it, Britney. Please keep me posted :)


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