Mini Italian Meatball and Orzo Soup


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meatball soup in a white bowlMini Meatball and Orzo Soup is a cozy bowl of savory broth with Italian sausage meatballs and orzo pasta. The perfect family night meal.

I went to Philadelphia last weekend for a quick visit with some good friends from college. It snowed about 8 inches in Kansas City so my flight out of town was delayed. Landed late in Chicago in a steady shower of snow. Flight delayed. Finally got to Philadelphia and it was snowing there! Winter travel is no joke. I had a great trip but all that snowy weather and travel meant that when I got home, all I wanted to do was curl up in front of the fire with a bowl of soup.

Molly and Clara have been declaring soups with pasta “the best dinner ever” lately, and I’ll do just about anything to win such high praise from the four-year-olds. This soup is not only filling, it’s fast. It uses what I now call cheater’s meatballs. Cheater’s meatballs are made just from Italian sausage rolled into balls and seared in a pan – no added seasonings needed.

Mini Italian Meatball and Orzo Soup in a large pot

How to Make Italian Sausage Meatballs

Italian sausage, purchased from the butcher / meat counter is already seasoned and full of flavor. Look for Italian sausage that is finely ground and looks similar in texture to ground beef or pork. If the sausage is too sticky / loose to easily roll into balls, add some breadcrumbs (Italian breadcrumbs or panic breadcrumbs will work). Roll the sausage into balls using anywhere from a rounded 1 tsp to rounded 1 Tbsp for each ball. (For this soup, aim on the smaller side.) Line the meatballs up on a sheet pan or cutting board and then sear on all sides in a skillet with some cooking oil over medium-high heat.

cooking meatballs in a large pot

Mini Meatball and Orzo Soup Ingredients

  • Italian Sausage – As noted above, look for Italian sausage that is similar in texture to ground beef or pork. It comes in mild or spicy varieties, so look for the version that fits with your spice preference.
  • Chicken Stock – Because Italian sausage can be salty, use a low sodium chicken stock or broth for the base of the soup. Store-bought or homemade chicken stock will work.
  • Orzo Pasta – This small rice-shaped pasta cooks fast. Any other small pasta shape will work. If you’re an orzo fan and looking for another recipe using this underrated past, check out my latest orzo-inspired creation, One-Pot Orzo with Tomatoes, Corn and Feta.

Mini Italian Meatball and Orzo Soup in white bowls

Make-Ahead / Freezer Instructions

This soup can be made ahead. Prepare the soup without the pasta. Then refrigerate or freeze.

When ready to serve, boil the orzo pasta until tender. Drain pasta and divide between serving bowls. Reheat soup and pour over top of the orzo pasta.

a spoonful of soup in a white bowl

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Mini Meatball and Orzo Soup
3.88 from 25 votes

Mini Italian Meatball and Orzo Soup

Mini Meatball and Orzo Soup is a cozy bowl of savory broth with Italian sausage meatballs and orzo pasta.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings: 4


  • Dutch oven


  • 12 ounces Italian Sausage, rolled into 1-inch balls (see note)
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 small Onion, chopped
  • 10 ounces Carrots, sliced into rounds
  • ½ teaspoon Oregano, dried
  • cup Orzo pasta
  • 5 cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon juice
  • Chopped parsley, for serving
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese, for serving


  • Heat a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add olive oil and then meatballs. Cook meatballs, stirring every couple minutes, until browned on all sides, ~5 minutes total. Transfer meatballs to a paper-towel lined plate.
  • To the heated Dutch oven, add onion and carrots. Saute until onions are starting to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add oregano and orzo pasta and saute for 1 minute.
  • Pour chicken stock into pan and bring to a simmer. Add meatballs back to soup.
  • Simmer soup until carrots and pasta are tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Squeeze lemon juice into soup. Taste and season with some salt and pepper.
  • Ladle soup into bowls. Top bowls with parsley and cheese.


If the sausage is too sticky / loose to easily roll into balls, add some breadcrumbs (Italian breadcrumbs or Panko breadcrumbs will work).
Print and attach the label below so cooking instructions are ready when you are!
mini italian meatball and orzo soup freezer label


Serving: 1g | Calories: 536kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 74mg | Sodium: 1102mg | Potassium: 853mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 11840IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 63mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $8.00
Calories: 536
Keyword: easy soup, freezer friendly
Like this? Leave a comment below!Jump to Comments

While I was off traveling, Frank and the girls had a Daddy-Daughter weekend. I’m told it included lots of playing in the snow and hot chocolate with marshmallows.

little girl with hot chocolate
little girl with hot chocolate

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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

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    1. Absolutely! If you’re using ground turkey, be sure to add some spices and seasonings. I have a great turkey meatball recipe here on the site that you could use in place of the sausage.

  1. 4 stars
    Cheater’s meatballs are my new favorite thing! So easy. And my two picky-ish kids looooved the meatballs, tiny pasta (I used ditalini instead of orzo), and carrots. Win! I also added some thinly sliced celery and minced garlic in with the veggies. Great easy family meal. Thanks!