Easy, Supremely-Satisfying Sausage Meatball Soup

updated Mar 23, 2020
Sausage Meatball Soup

A comforting recipe for pasta and mini meatball soup made with Italian sausage.

Serves4 to 6

Prep15 minutes

Cook28 minutes to 30 minutes

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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

There are a lot of ways to up the coziness factor of a bowl of soup, but my favorite is to add mini meatballs. Perhaps it’s because I grew up on cans of Progresso Chickarina soup; for me, there’s nothing more satisfying than digging into a bowl of soup and discovering a little meatball on your spoon.

This homemade meatball soup is pure comfort, with a brothy tomato base that’s filled with al dente pasta, wilted spinach, and bite-sized meatballs. To ensure it’s absolutely weeknight-friendly, though, there’s a little shortcut involved: Instead of making the meatballs with traditional ingredients, sausage jumps in to make things extra-easy — and arguably even more flavorful.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Sausage Is the Flavor-Packed Shortcut to Homemade Meatballs

Making tiny meatballs for soup can be a bit fussy. You have to mix together ground meat, breadcrumbs, aromatics, and maybe an egg, form them into small balls, and pan-fry or bake them before tossing them into the soup pot. Here, we’re skipping all of that by starting with sausage. You’ll simply roll uncooked Italian sausage — free from its casing — into tiny balls, brown them, then let them finish cooking in the simmering soup.

Since sausage is already filled with aromatics and spices, you hardly need to add much to the soup to get great results. As the sausage meatballs simmer, they’ll flavor the rest of the soup in a short amount of time.

Sausage Meatball Soup

A comforting recipe for pasta and mini meatball soup made with Italian sausage.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 28 minutes to 30 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    medium yellow onion

  • 4 cloves


  • 1 pound

    uncooked sweet or hot Italian sausage

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil, divided

  • 4 cups

    low-sodium chicken broth

  • 1 (28-ounce) can

    crushed tomatoes

  • 1 cup

    dried ditalini or small shell pasta

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 5 ounces

    baby spinach (about 5 packed cups)

  • Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


  1. Finely chop 1 medium yellow onion and mince 4 cloves garlic. Remove the casings from 1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausages if needed. Form the sausage into 1-inch-wide meatballs (about 1 heaping teaspoon each), wetting your hands with water as needed to keep the mixture from sticking, and place on a baking sheet. You should have about 38 meatballs.

  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add half the meatballs in a single layer and pan-fry until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Use tongs to carefully flip the meatballs and brown a second side, about 3 minutes more. Transfer to a large plate (the meatballs will not be fully cooked). Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and remaining meatballs.

  3. Add the onion to the now-empty pot and sauté until softened and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Pour in 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth and 1 can crushed tomatoes. Stir to combine, then bring to a boil.

  4. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Stir in the reserved meatballs and any accumulated juices on the plate, 1 cup dried ditalini or small shell pasta, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the meatballs and pasta are cooked through, about 10 minutes.

  5. Stir in 5 ounces baby spinach (about 5 packed cups), a few handfuls at a time, until just wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve garnished with grated Parmesan cheese.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.