With pre-made meatballs, orzo pasta and a savoury fire roasted tomato broth, this Italian meatball soup is full of flavour. Using simple ingredients and minimal prep, this hearty soup is on the table in less than an hour.
This recipe first appeared on Savory Experiments where I am a contributor.
As soon as fall approaches I dust off all my Dutch ovens and make sure they are ready for soup.
Soup is such an easy meal to make and there are endless varieties. You really are only limited by your imagination.
A pot of soup can be a fantastic way to use up bits of ingredients in your fridge or pantry.
There have been several times I’ve just started tossing ingredients in the pot without any plan at all. We’ve rarely been disappointed with the results.
This soup is rich and hearty. The meatballs and pasta make it filling and it’s full of flavour from the fire roasted tomatoes and fresh herbs.
Why this recipe works
- This soup is rich, hearty and full of flavour.
- It uses pre-made meatballs to cut down on prep time.
- From start to finish this meatball soup is on the table in less than one hour.
- It is a complete meal.
Ingredients & Substitutions
The ingredients in this soup are simple pantry items. You probably have many of these ingredients already, and if not, don’t be afraid to use some substitutions.
Here are the main components of this soup and some things you can use instead.
Broth – I use chicken broth in this recipe because I feel it lets the tomato flavour come through a bit more. However, you can use beef broth, vegetable broth, or any combination of the three depending on what you have.
Fire roasted tomatoes – These have a deeper flavour and are less acidic than regular diced tomatoes, but you can use whatever you have. If you are using regular diced tomatoes, you may want to add a tablespoon of tomato paste to deepen the flavor.
Meatballs – I use all-beef frozen meatballs, but you can certainly use homemade. If you don’t like beef, feel free to use turkey or pork meatballs instead.
Parmesan rind – Yes, those hard rinds left after you’ve shredded all the cheese can be saved and used! When added to the soup what’s left of the cheese will melt away, and you will be surprised just how much you can get out of it. If you don’t have a ziplock bag full of rinds (like I do) that’s ok. Just add about ¼ cup of shredded parmesan cheese.
Orzo pasta – Orzo pasta resembles grains of rice. I like using orzo for this as you are sure to get pasta in every spoonful of soup. If you don’t have orzo, that’s ok. I would suggest using a different small pasta such as digitali or small shells.
Pro Tip – If you buy fresh parmesan cheese with rinds attached make sure you save those rinds after you have grated all the cheese. The rinds are perfect for recipes like this soup and they will keep for months in a ziplock bag in the fridge.
Step by Step Instructions
This soup is easy to make and requires only a few steps.
One – Heat the oil, onions, garlic and carrots over medium heat until the vegetables begin to soften.
Two – Add the broth, tomatoes, dried herbs, meatballs and parmesan rind. Increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil.
Three – When the liquid is boiling add the orzo pasta. Reduce the heat to medium low. Cover and simmer for about 12 minutes until pasta is el dente.
Four – Remove the bay leaves and parmesan rind. Add the chopped, fresh herbs, stir and serve.
Frozen vs homemade meatballs
This soup works well with either frozen, premade or homemade meatballs. Store-bought meatballs have come a long way and there are plenty of good quality ones in the freezer section of your grocery store.
The nice thing about frozen, pre-made meatballs is they are less work and they are usually pre-cooked. You can just add them to the soup and as soon as they are fully heated they are ready to serve.
Homemade meatballs are more work, but you can control the ingredients and flavors.
If you are going to use homemade meatballs for this recipe I would suggest you pan sear them first to release some of the fat. It will also ensure they hold together whey they are heated in the soup.
Pro-Tip: If you want to use homemade meatballs you could make a batch, cook them fully, and then store them in the freezer for the next time you want to make this soup. The meatballs in my spaghetti and meatball recipe would work well for this.
How to make meatball soup in the Instant Pot
It is really easy to convert this Dutch oven recipe to the instant pot.
Begin by setting the instant pot to sauté. Add the oil, garlic, onions and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables have begun to soften.
Add the remaining ingredients, except the fresh parsley and basil to the pot and stir to combine.
Turn the valve to seal and set to high pressure for 6 minutes.
Once the timer is complete, turn the valve to vent to quick release the pressure.
When the pin drops, carefully remove the lid. Remove the parmesan rind and bay leaves from the pot and stir in the fresh herbs.
Serve as desired.
What to serve with meatball soup
This meatball soup is hearty enough to be a meal on its own, but if you feel like you want to serve it with something then some great choices are:
Top Tips & FAQS
The base of this soup will freeze very well, however the pasta will absorb the liquid and tends to become soft.
If you want to freeze this soup I would suggest to freeze it before you add the pasta. When it comes time to serve the soup, cook up a bit of pasta to add to it.
You can definitely make this soup earlier in the day and let it simmer. Just wait to add the pasta until about 15 minutes before you want to serve it. This will help ensure the pasta doesn’t absorb all the broth or get too soft.
More soup recipes
Italian Meatball Soup with Orzo
- 2 tablespoon Olive oil
- 1 Cup diced yellow onion 1 medium onion
- 1 Cup diced carrots 2 medium carrots
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 6 Cups chicken broth
- 1 15-oz can fire roasted tomatoes
- 2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 Pound fresh or frozen meatballs about 1 inch diameter
- 1 2-inch square parmesan rind or ¼ cup shredded parmesan, plus more for garnish
- 1 Cup orzo pasta dry
- ¼ Cup chopped italian parsley plus more for garnish
- ¼ Cup chopped basil plus more for garnish
- Add the olive oil, onions, carrots and garlic to a large pot and heat over medium heat until vegetables are beginning to soften, 5-7 minutes.
- Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, oregano, basil, bay leaves, meatballs and parmesan rind. Increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil.
- Once the liquid is boiling add the pasta and reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer for about 12 minutes, until pasta is el dente.
- Remove the bay leaves and parmesan rind, add the chopped herbs and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately topped with additional chopped herbs and shredded parmesan.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.