Italian Wedding Soup is a long-time favorite recipe that my mom used to make. As a kid, she’d serve it throughout the year, but it would always make a special appearance at Easter dinner. It’s a beautiful golden broth with rich greens and small meatballs.
Just thinking about it brings a smile to my face! 🙂
Make from scratch and you’re sure to end up with a simple, yet very delicious soup. And today’s recipe will show you how to make it quickly without gluten, dairy, and eggs (depending on your personal diet). It’s actually very versatile (as you will see below).
If you wonder how the soup got its name, Italian Wedding Soup may have been translated incorrectly. It should have been called “Married Soup” from the Italian phrase minestra maritata. The idea is that the soup perfectly pairs or marries the vegetables and meat together to create a delicious meal.
The more traditional version of this soup relies more heavily on vegetables than the meat.
Upgrading Italian Wedding Soup
My mom’s Italian Wedding Soup was made with pastina (gluten), dairy, eggs, and meatballs (that contained gluten, dairy, and eggs). For many years, it was off limits to me because I could not eat gluten, dairy, or eggs.
This Italian Wedding Soup is upgraded so that it’s gluten free.
It can also be made paleo by skipping just about every optional ingredient listed below in the recipe. And if you can tolerate eggs or dairy, there are options for that too!
You don’t certainly don’t need to have a pasta in the soup in order to enjoy it!
But if you would like to add something, you’ve got a few options. I have yet to find a gluten free pastina on the market (at least in the US). Instead, I use elbows, orzo, or anellini since their delicate shapes are better suited to soup.
If you’d prefer a more “whole grain” option, you could certainly cook quinoa and add that. It’s in the shape of pastina, though it is smaller in size.
Because the meatballs are small and pan-fried, you don’t need to add eggs to the recipe. They’ll stay together and are very flavorful!
As for your green — the traditional green for Italian Wedding Soup is escarole. You could certainly swap it out for kale, but I personally hate kale so I’m sticking with escarole.
Escarole actually looks a lot like romaine. It is technically a type of lettuce that is a part of the chicory family. It’s a pretty mild green that you can eat raw, but (unlike lettuce) can be added to soups as well as sautéd with other veggies. It’s yummy, good for you, and very versatile.
The entire head which would be used in an Italian Wedding Soup recipe adds 16 grams of fiber along with fat-soluble Vitamins A and K along with Vitamin C and folate. And you’ll also get added calcium, potassium, and iron! (source)
So if you love kale, go for it… but if you hate kale (or it hates your digestive system), stick with escarole.
Why Add Collagen To Your Italian Wedding Soup
The reality is that if you don’t have a pre-made broth or bone stock on hand, you may be working with a boxed product or some sort of gluten free bouillon.
The latter option (or one that’s made solely from veggies) isn’t going to give you that added collagen boost that you can get from bone broth.
Even if you make your own bone broth, you still have no idea how much collagen is in each serving. Depending on how long the bones are cooked and a variety of other factors… you may not get as much as you think.
Collagen is an integral part of bones, skin, cartilage, and tendons from fowl, mammals, and even fish.
Just in case you’re wondering, there are no vegetarian or vegan collagen sources. Any formulas claiming to be vegan aren’t true collagen, but rather a mixture of micronutrients that are found in or help build collagen in your body. But it is not true collagen.
Hydrolyzed collagen dissolves in liquid without making it thicker (gelatin would turn a cool liquid to a jelly). That’s why adding collagen to soup is an incredibly easy way to increase protein of your meal while reaping the benefits simultaneously.
Just a word of caution — collagen is not a complete protein. So it shouldn’t be used as an alternative to a complete protein powder in protein shakes, for example. You can use it in addition to other protein so that you get a complete amino acid spectrum for your body’s needs.
There are different types of collagen. The ones that are most important to me as a clinical nutritionist working with chronic gut and skin issues are Type 1 and Type 3 collagen. These two are found in the highest concentrations of the gut.
Fortunately hydrolyzed collagen powder is tasteless so you can add it to nearly anything! Though totally not soup related, I love adding to protein shakes (which helped me beat eczema).
Health Benefits of Collagen
It’s excellent for your gut, especially if you’ve got ongoing leaky gut issues.
And it’s great for your skin no matter whether you’re dealing with eczema, psoriasis, other rash issues, or even just for its anti-aging support.
The last bit is key because as you age, your body makes less collagen. That’s one of the many reasons why you’ll notice a change in your joints and skin.
Other benefits of collagen include:
- Skin elasticity
- Skin moisture (important for chronic rashes like eczema and psoriasis)
- Improved nail and hair quality
- Joint pain
- Back pain
One study found that respondents over 50 years old taking 1200mg/day for six months noted improvements in joint pain compared to those taking a placebo. The most significant improvements were seen in those with hip, shoulder, hand, elbow and lumbar spine.
Research has found benefits to adding collagen to your daily routine! It’s shown improvements to joints in those who are very active. And that’s why my husband Nick has discovered!
I began adding Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides to his daily protein shake back in October after he inquired if it would be good for him.
Nick has a lot of joint issues from his younger years skateboarding and many dislocations and injuries. To say his knees and shoulders are a mess would be an understatement.
After three months of consistent use, he mentioned to me without any prompting that he could no longer pull his arm bone out of his shoulder. His knees are significantly less crackly and poppy, and they feel much more stable. He insists on adding collagen into his daily routine because of how much better he feels.
Pick Your Collagen Source Wisely
In my journey to find the right collagen to recommend to clients, I discovered that not all collagen was created equal. There are a lot of sub-par products out there… especially those coming from unhealthfully raised animals.
When it comes to products derived from animals or fish, quality matters.
No matter what source you choose of hydrolyzed collagen, make sure you look for…
- Pastured cows that have been grass-fed
- Healthy chickens that were allowed to run around and eat bugs as well as non-GMO grains
- Sustainable fish that aren’t farm-raised and exposed to lots of antibiotics
To be clear, this is why I’ve used Vital Proteins Collagen for many years! I discovered them at Paleo f(x) about 4 or 5 years ago and have continued to use their products because it’s such high quality.
Their collagen is from pasture-raised, grass-fed cows in New Zealand and Brazil.
Or if you’d prefer collagen from a marine source, their fish-based collagen is derived from wild-caught fish from Hawaii.
If you’re looking for a quality product (especially one that you can add to Italian Wedding Soup and other recipes), this is it!
NOTE: This post has been sponsored by Vital Proteins. The opinions shared herein are my own about the benefits of collagen and why I recommend collagen to my clients.