When I think about Italian Food, I think meatball, and when I think meatball…I think vegan Italian wedding soup. Italian wedding soup means a marriage between meat and greens, but since we don’t eat meat, let’s make it a marriage between lentil balls and greens.
Recently, my daughter’s father-in-law carried on about an Italian wedding soup he ate at a local Italian restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona. He raved about the meatballs, floating in the chicken broth with pasta. Of course, he failed to mention any vegetables, like spinach, carrots, onions, garlic, celery, and Italian parsley. But, because I love a challenge, and he did challenge me, vegan Italian wedding soup was set in motion.
A HEARTY LENTIL MEATBALL, PASTA, AND VEGETABLE SOUP IN A SAVORY BROTH
I love Italian food, but to be honest, I prefer Italian food in the winter, when the temperatures are cold. Comfort food, although typically fattening, brings warmth and comfort in cold temperatures, and somehow makes us warm.
Despite my new home in Arizona, we get cold days. Our cold days, of course, do not even come close to places out east. Instead, when the temperature drops below 60 degrees, we retreat into our homes, turn on the heat, and layer clothes like we still live in Michigan. And, we eat Italian food.
Although we know this is ridiculous, our version of cold still provides a need for comforting hot food and gives inspiration for soups and other hot dishes to warm us from the inside out. But, why not make comfort food healthy with less fat?
As you know, I love soup. I also love ethnic foods with deep flavors and spices. Since I already make a tasty lentil meatball, which I freeze, the rest of this soup was pretty easy to execute. The challenge, however, is to give it that savory broth with the right mix of herbs and spices to give it that savory taste.
WHAT INGREDIENTS I USE TO MAKE SAVORY VEGAN ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP
Using Imagine No Chicken Broth, for example, is the perfect base for vegan Italian wedding soup. Certified organic and non-GMO, this vegetable broth is made from savory herbs and fresh vegetables. Imagine No Chicken Broth is the secret ingredient to this savory and therefore is an essential ingredient.
Then, simply add the organic fresh spinach, finely diced carrots, onions, celery, zucchini (my added green bonus) and add the savory lentil meatballs. Despite its simplicity, the vegan Italian wedding soup recipe is more of an entree than a soup. Actually, this soup is quite healthy and light compared to other Italian dishes.
In fact, the savory lentil meatballs, mixed with the tiny bite-sized bits of orzo pasta is filling and delicious. As a result, the way you prepare your meatballs is also important. Since I food prep a lot, I make a bunch of meatball in advance and freeze them to use on-demand. Or, in a pinch, I buy meatless meatballs from Trader Joes.
Because I want a crunchy meatball on the outside, I bake my meatballs in the oven or sear them in a pan. The choice, therefore, is yours. Many Italian wedding soup recipes cook the meatballs while in the broth, which in my opinion makes the lentil balls soft and soggy. Again, this is all about preference and texture. I’m all about texture.
SUBSTITUTIONS FOR GREENS AND PASTA FOR VEGAN ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP
Even though I chose spinach as my greens, my daughter’s father in law’s soup was made with escarole, and some recipes even use kale. Similarly, some Italian wedding soup recipes are made with acini de Pepe pasta, which is a tiny round balled pasta. Honestly, any greens or small pasta works perfectly well. Additionally, the types of vegetables you add are up to you as well.
In fact, the secret to the vegetables is to make sure they are all diced very small. For that reason, I used my favorite kitchen tool, my vegetable chopper, which chops in a uniform size. Diced zucchini, although not typical of recipes, is added for more green vegetables, and its mild taste goes well with the other ingredients. Let’s just call it my other secret ingredient.
Non-vegan recipes, also call for fresh parmesan cheese added to the soup at the end. So, in order to “veganize” and keep it cheesy, just add Vegan Parmesan Cheese.
FRESH HERBS SEAL THE MARRIAGE BETWEEN THE GREENS AND THE LENTIL MEATBALLS
More often, than not, I prefer fresh herbs over dried ones. Believe it on not, there is a general rule for cooking with dry herbs versus fresh ones. The ratio, of dry versus fresh herbs, is three to one.
For example, if a recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon of fresh rosemary, you only need one teaspoon. Because dried herbs are more potent, they require less than if using fresh herbs.
Since I grow my own herbs in my kitchen and outdoors year-round, I’m spoiled with fresh herbs. But, if you can’t get fresh, just use dried. Just be sure you remember that less is more with dried herbs.
For this recipe, I used a bay leaf (which I remove before serving), as well as fresh rosemary, basil, thyme, and parsley. Not only do these herbs all work well with Italian dishes, but they also taste fabulous together.
VEGAN ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP IS QUICK AND ESAY TO MAKE AND SERVE…
First, it is important to cook this soup in stages, though quick and easy, it ensures everything gets cooked and not overcooked. So, I like to call it cooking in layers, like in my No Oil Rachel Ray Copy Cat Vegan Minestrone Soup.
Begin with a soup pot, and start by sauteeing the garlic, onions, and celery until the onions are translucent. Then, add the carrots and cook a few more minutes before adding the fresh, chopped herbs and seasonings. Also, add a little of the broth so you avoid any sticking.
At this point, I add 4 cups of the Imagine No Chicken Broth, covering the vegetables and herbs, cooking for a few more minutes. Then, bring to a boil, and add an additional 4 cups of broth, bring to a boil, and add the zucchini and the Orzo pasta.
Because the pasta takes 10 minutes to cook, and it takes the same amount of time to bake my frozen meatballs, I bake my lentil meatballs while the zucchini and pasta cook in the soup.
Next, once the soup begins to boil, and the lentil balls are baking, turn the soup down to simmer, and set a timer for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
When the meatballs are finished, add the spinach to the soup, and it will wilt immediately in the hot broth.
And then add the hot lentil balls to the vegan Italian wedding soup recipes, and you are ready to serve. Since the lentil meatballs are already cooked through, you are in business.
Using a ladle fill each bowl with vegan Italian wedding soup, and then sprinkle with Vegan Parmesan Cheese. Because my family loves to plunge their bread into a soup bowl, I recommend serving with bread.
Not only is vegan Italian wedding soup a great, easy dinner, but it also packs up great for a few days of lunch to go.
In addition, if you love soup as much as I do, and you love extras for the next day, try out these yummy soup recipes:
- No Oil Rachel Ray Copy Cat Vegan Minestrone Soup
- Potato Leek Soup
- Vegan Split Pea Soup
- Hungarian Mushroom Soup
- Skinny Detox Lentil Vegetable Soup
- Skinny Cream of Tomato Soup
- Very Veggie and Bean Soup
- Cauliflower Bisque Soup with Paprika and Chives
- Crockpot Spicy Coconut Potato and Corn Soup
- Skinny Roasted Corn and Potato Chowder
Soup is good food!