Sicilian Meatball Soup with Cabbage

Sicilian Meatball Soup with Cabbage

Remember My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Toula’s father with the Windex? In a simile :  Carlo (my mom’s partner in crime) is to olive oil as Toula’s father is to Windex.  “Just drizzle a little olive oil on it” is Carlo’s motto.  And when Carlo says “drizzle,” you “drizzle” because you know he knows what he’s talking about.

Carlo is Sicilian and the most animated person in the kitchen.  Constantly coming up with slow-cooked yummy meat recipes, he can make a lamb shank that will knock your socks off.  I admire Carlo’s way with meat and herbs as he really knows what herb is appropriate where.  In his very Sicilian, throwing-around-pots-and-pans and chunking-off-ciabatta-and-cheese way, Carlo is an inspiration to anyone who wants to learn authentic Italian cooking.  These are the things Carlo is master of:  lentil soup, chicken cacciatore, veal marsala, pizza, roasted chicken, and giving you an honest opinion. Oh, and he’s a history buff with a mean tennis serve.

Sicilian Meatball Soup with Cabbage

Carlo is one of my favorite taste testers because the man does not have a lying bone in his body.  He tells me when my recipe is not up to par and refuses to buy in to “healthified” desserts, which makes me try harder to make my “healthified” desserts even better to pass the Carlo standard.  The man knows dairy, the man knows chocolate. The words “Healthy” and “dessert” do not walk into the same room when Carlo is present, bless his ice cream-loving soul.

So for your cooking sensei, as I’m sure you have one, create a comforting ode in an over-sized pot or pan and dedicate it to the Windex-spraying, olive oil-drizzling master of the kitchen.  To Carlo, the man who always knows what to say and the food that goes with it.

Sicilian Meatball Soup with Cabbage

Author: Julia


For the meatballs

  • 1-1/2 pounds ground elk beef or turkey meat
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs optional
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese grated, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds

For the soup

  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 2 large carrots julienned
  • 2 stalks celery chopped
  • 6 cloved garlic minced
  • 1 quart chicken beef or vegetable broth
  • 1 28- ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup full-bodied red wine such as Cabernet or Syrah
  • Rind of parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon parsley flakes
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • ½ head of cabbage core removed and discarded, sliced (OR 1 cup of uncooked macaroni/shell pasta)
  • 1 zucchini squash chopped


To Make The Meatballs

  1. Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl.
  2. Using your hands, smoosh ingredients together to combine
  3. Form medium-sized meatballs
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high
  5. Wait until skillet has heated up all the way then quickly place the meatballs on the skillet.
  6. Allow them to sear about 30 seconds, then roll them to their opposite side with a spatula or spoon and cook another 30 seconds.
  7. Remove skillet from the heat, place the meatballs on a plate and set aside.

To Prepare the Soup

  1. In a large dutch oven or stock pot, heat the grapeseed oil and sauté the onion until beginning to brown.
  2. Add the carrot, celery, garlic and sauté another 3 minutes
  3. Add the herbs and stir
  4. Add the broth, wine, crushed tomatoes, and the rind of the parmesan cheese. Cover pot and bring to a full boil
  5. Reduce heat to a low boil, add the meatballs and cook about 3 minutes
  6. Add the cabbage and zucchini. Allow cabbage to cook down slightly, about 3 minutes.
  7. Cover the pot, reduce heat to a low simmer and cook covered for 40 minutes.
  8. Remove the bay leaf and what’s left of the parmesan cheese rind and serve with chopped parsley and shredded parmesan on top.

Recipe Notes

If you choose to not add breadcrumbs, wait until soup has simmered for 20 minutes before adding the browned meatballs...if you do not add breadcrumbs, meatballs may turn out overcooked if you add them too early.

Traditionally, Sicilian Meatball Soup has some form of pasta, either macaroni or shell pasta. If desired, add dry pasta to the soup and cook until al dente or replace the cabbage with pasta.

Sicilian Meatball Soup with Cabbage



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    1. Julia Post author

      Great question! Honestly, this is one of the very few soups that I would not make in a crock pot, and here’s why: If you did, you’d want to saute the onion and garlic first, add to the crock with all ingredients except for the meatballs and cabbage, and then add the meatballs and cabbage an hour (maybe sooner) or so before serving. Not necessarily that big of a pain, but given the fact that you’d have to complete the same number of steps as making it on the stove plus making it on the stove is much quicker, I would stick with the stove. But if you try it using your crock, let me know!! 🙂

    1. Julia Post author

      I completely agree with that assessment! When I was an undergrad, I ate at this Mexican place on campus where they had albondigas soup…sooooo addicting and wonderful when you’re in need of brain power! 🙂

  1. Susan

    Have this soup simmering on my stove as we speak. Needed to use up some leftover cabbage. Used half pork, half ground beef. My samples here and there have been delicious. My husband can’t keep his spoon out! Only thought: directions don’t say where to add the red wine. I added it to the sautéed veggies, prior to adding broth and crushed tomatoes. Thanks for a great recipe! (Found through foodgawker)

    1. Julia Post author

      Susan, thanks for making the recipe and for letting me know about the red wine, I’ll add it to the recipe now! I’m so happy you like the recipe so far and I really appreciate you taking the time to give me feedback!! Hope you’re having an excellent weekend!

  2. Lois

    I am crying over this soup…it is SOOO good! Made it for supper tonight as I had some ingredients I needed to use up. Can’t believe how good it is…. Can’t wait until winter, will make it over and over and over. Have you tried to freeze it? It made a pretty good sized pot, just wondering if does ok after being frozen.

    1. Julia Post author

      Hi Lois! I’m so glad you enjoyed the soup! I made the recipe many times over the winter, as it’s definitely a belly-warmer and is so satisfying! I’ve never tried freezing it, and I want to say it would be fine to freeze but I’m not positive. Let me know if you try freezing it and if it ends up thawing okay! I’ve frozen other ground meat soups before and they have thawed fine, so hopefully this one follows suit. Thanks so much for the feedback and enjoy the rest of your evening! 🙂

  3. Danetta

    Thank you for posting this recipe. This is one of the best soups I have ever had! Love the raisins in the meatballs! ♥

  4. Kathleen

    Making this soup, sounds delish but am confused by the “1/2 cup head of cabbage”. Is it really just a half cup or is it half a head? There’s a pretty big difference.


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