Meatball Soup Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 15 min. Cook: 35 min.
Meatball soup is comforting, satisfying and, most of all, simple to make. Homemade meatballs are simmered in beef broth with kidney beans, vegetables and pasta for this mouthwatering meal.

Updated: Jun. 17, 2024

Meatball soup is a recipe you’ll love to make when you need a filling, warming dish for lunch or dinner. Meatball-containing soups exist in a number of cuisines; possibly the two best-known are Mexican Albondigas en Caldo (or Caldo de Albondigas) and Italian Wedding Soup. Both of those recipes are different from this basic meatball soup, however. Albondigas, or Mexican meatballs, tend to contain mint, while the broth of the soup is based more on garlic and onion, along with tomatoes. Italian Wedding Soup tends to contain greens like escarole or spinach, and the meatballs are often made with pork, although you can use other meats.

This meatball soup contains no mint or spinach. Instead, beef meatballs sit in a tomato-and-beef broth with kidney beans, carrots and small pasta. It’s a simple meal but very filling, just what you want when it’s cold out or when you’ve been working all day and want to sit down to something comforting.

Meatball Soup Ingredients

  • Egg: The egg binds the meatball ingredients together.
  • Bread crumbs: Bread crumbs act as a filler in the meatballs (if you’ve ever added bread crumbs when making meatloaf, the crumbs serve the same purpose here).
  • Fresh parsley: This gives the meatballs a nice, herby taste.
  • Parmesan cheese: You’ll have more of an umami taste in the meatballs if you add Parmesan cheese.
  • Garlic salt: A little garlic salt helps amp up the flavor of the meatballs.
  • Lean ground beef: Use 90% lean ground beef for these meatballs, because when the meatballs cook, any fat they have will render out into the soup, which is delicious but makes the meatballs shrink. Using leaner meat means less shrinkage.
  • Beef broth: Beef broth is the base of the soup, and you’ll want to use reduced-sodium broth to reduce the overall sodium level of the soup.
  • Kidney beans: Red kidney beans pair well with beef while also adding protein and fiber to the recipe.
  • Stewed tomatoes: The canned stewed tomatoes form both part of the vegetable content and the broth. The tomatoes are added undrained, so check sodium levels and consider getting a reduced-sodium version.
  • Carrot: Carrots add a little sweetness to counter the tomato-based acidity.
  • Italian seasoning: This mix of herbs adds flavor; use either a commercial or homemade mix.
  • Tiny shell pasta: Emphasis on “tiny” so that the pasta mixes well with the rest of the soup and is easier to pick up in a spoon.
  • More fresh parsley: A little parsley as a garnish is a nice touch.

Directions

Step 1: Make the meatballs

In a small bowl, combine the egg, bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, garlic salt and pepper in a bowl. Crumble the meat and add it to the egg mixture, then mix lightly but thoroughly. Shape the meat mixture into 1-inch balls.

Step 2: Start the soup

Put the meatballs in a large saucepan and brown them on all sides. Drain away any fat that renders out, then add the beef broth, kidney beans, tomatoes, carrot and Italian seasoning. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Step 3: Add the pasta and finish cooking

Add the pasta, then let the soup simmer for 10 minutes, till the meat is no longer pink and the pasta is tender. Before serving, garnish with more fresh parsley and grated Parmesan, if desired.

Meatball Soup Variations

  • Try different vegetables: You’ve got carrot and tomato already, but try adding more vegetables such as onions or chopped celery to this recipe for meatball soup. These will change the taste, but the point is to see if there’s a combination you like better than what the basic recipe has.
  • Use store-bought meatballs: Sometimes you just don’t have the time or energy to make your own meatballs and want to go with store-bought. Look for meatballs that are 1 inch in diameter. If they’re frozen, either defrost them first in the microwave according to the package directions, or add them to the soup frozen, but cook the soup longer. Always check the internal temperature of the meatballs with an instant-read meat thermometer.

How to Store Meatball Soup

Place any leftover meatball soup in an airtight container and keep it in the refrigerator for two to three days at the most. The longer you leave it in there, the better the chance that the pasta will absorb most of the broth, so when you reheat it, you may need to add more broth or water. Reheat in a pan over medium heat, and remember to check the temperature of the meatballs with an instant-read meat thermometer. Internally, they should be at least 165°F.

Can you freeze meatball soup?

We don’t recommend freezing this meatball soup recipe because the pasta will not taste good when thawed and reheated. Freezing really doesn’t help preserve cooked pasta at all. However, if you make extra soup and then freeze a portion before adding the pasta, that could work. Ensure the soup you’re going to freeze has cooled, and divide it into serving sizes in freezer containers. Freeze for up to three months. To reheat, let it thaw in the refrigerator for a few hours and then rewarm. It’s crucial that you check the internal temperature of the meatballs to ensure the centers aren’t still frozen. They need to be at least 165°.

Meatball Soup Tips

What should you serve with meatball soup?

A green salad and garlic bread would be wonderful as side dishes with this meatball soup.

Can you put the raw meatballs right into the soup?

It’s not advisable to add uncooked meatballs to the soup. The step where you brown the meatballs is there for a reason: Browning the meatballs helps keep them together once you put them in the soup. Otherwise, as they sit in the broth, they could start to fall apart.

Can you use other beans instead of kidney beans?

You can use other beans, but try to stick to those that go well with red meat. White beans and black beans tend to pair well with beef, and you may have preferences of your own. It’s worth testing if you tend not to keep kidney beans on hand but usually have other types around.

Meatball Soup

Prep Time 15 min
Cook Time 35 min
Yield 5 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt, optional
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef (90% lean)
  • 4 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 1 can (16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) stewed tomatoes
  • 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup uncooked tiny shell pasta
  • Minced fresh parsley, optional

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients. Crumble beef over mixture and mix lightly but thoroughly. Shape into 1-in. balls. Brown meatballs in a large saucepan; drain. Add broth, beans, tomatoes, carrot and Italian seasoning. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Add pasta; simmer until meat is no longer pink and pasta is tender, 10 minutes longer. If desired, top with minced fresh parsley and additional grated Parmesan cheese.

Nutrition Facts

1-1/2 cups: 248 calories, 5g fat (2g saturated fat), 70mg cholesterol, 778mg sodium, 30g carbohydrate (8g sugars, 6g fiber), 20g protein.

This meatball soup recipe is a hearty meal. It's great for chilly days. —Sue Miller, Walworth, Wisconsin