Comfort food season gets extra comfy with this one-pot pressure cooker meatball soup. Italian seasonings flavor the rich tomato broth, and Carando® Mozzarella Rustica Fresh Italian Style Meatballs with hearty fregola pastas turn this soup into a filling meal. This is a sponsored recipe collaboration with Carando. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I love this time of year, when autumn is approaching — jeans weather! — and a hot bowl of soup just sounds so good, like a big hug from a friend you haven’t seen in a long time.
It’s also the time of year when soup recipes fill my brain. It’s as reliable as the sun rising in the east: when September hits, my thoughts turn to soup, and the ideas just flow. Today’s Italian Meatball Soup recipe took shape on an unusually chilly August morning, when hefty, comforting soup with meatballs, pasta and Italian seasonings sounded completely irresistible. And here it is, brought to life, and I’m so excited to share it with you!
But first, let’s go shopping!
My local Kroger is my go-to food destination, because they carry everything this foodie cook needs to create meals the fam goes mmmmmm over.
When time is plentiful, I love to browse up and down every aisle in the store to see what treasures might be lurking in special displays. (Which is precisely how I discovered the stash of Hatch chile peppers for my recent corn chowder soup recipe: wandering down an aisle I usually don’t.)
But, on the days when we just need to get the goods and hit the road, there’s Kroger Pick-Up. That’s where I first discovered Carando’s Mozzarella Fresh Italian Style Meatballs, when loading up my online shopping cart and searching for meatballs.
In the Kroger brick-and-mortars, you’ll find Carando’s meatballs right in the meat department in convenient packs of eight to twelve, ready to take home and add to your favorite recipes (like Carando’s Mozzarella Fresh Italian Style Meatball Soup!). And while you’re adding items to your cart (virtual or otherwise), don’t forget to stock up on the soup aromatics!
One of my very favorite things about cooking soup are the irresistible aromas that bloom from the stove when sauteing the aromatics — onions, celery, garlic, plus herbs and spices — the very ingredients that give soup its flavor addictive qualities.
Italian Meatball Soup gets flavor-charged with a few extra-special ingredients in addition to the perfectly spiced Carando meatballs: a big pinch of Italian classic crush red pepper flakes for the most tantalizing little kick, plus the rind from a wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano for some salty richness.
Say what?! That’s right! The aged cheese flavor of the cheese rind permeates the soup without adding a melty cheese situation into what should be a smooth broth. The cheese shop in my local Kroger packages parm rinds in-house, which freeze wonderfully for soup and sauces all winter long.
With our ingredients gathered, it’s time to get cooking! For those you who love one-pot, easy-clean-up cooking (us!), this meatball soup recipe is just the ticket to an easy weeknight dinner.
It’s time to break out the pressure cooker! I love my Instant Pot (both of them, actually, lol – I have the 6 quart and the 3 quart). Even though I’m not the type of cook who needs shortcuts, because I do love to cook, pans and gadgets everywhere, I do appreciate the pressure cooker’s ability to cut to the chase and get it all done.
And while working on lots of soup recipes this summer, I came to embrace another advantage of the pressure cooker: it doesn’t heat up the kitchen. Me and my AC unit gratefully thank the Instant Pot for creating amazing soup and soup stocks in even the hottest of weather, without sending either of us right over the perspirey edge.
But, let’s not forget the raison d’etre of the multi-function cooker: Sauteing the Carando meatballs and aromatics right in the Instant Pot’s inner pot means one-pot clean-up and minimal kitchen mess. I love it!
And while the pressure cooker is doing its meatball soup thing, you can get a jump start on the evening’s to-do list. (Or, put your feet up and relax for a few minutes. I won’t judge you from my position on the couch with the remote control. 😉 )
The richly seasoned tomato broth of this meatball soup provides the perfect base for the Carando Mozzarella Rustica Fresh Italian Style Meatballs. Top your soup with a little fresh parsley, some grated parm, and savor the satisfying flavors of Italian cuisine in a comforting bowl of homemade soup.
This recipe creates 2 to 3 generous servings of soup, but if you’re feeding a family, use two packs of Carando meatballs, and increase the other soup ingredients by 50%. Also, if you have little ones who love the meatballs, don’t hesitate to slice the meatballs in half after cooking. They’re generously sized!
I have to give a quick shout out to the fregola pasta in this recipe. Fregola is the cousin to Israeli pearl couscous, with the added oomph of being toasted after drying. This creates a sturdy little pasta that’s not only delightful to bite into, but stands up nicely to the environment of the pressure cooker.
If you can’t find fregola, you can substitute another small pasta, such as ditalini or orzo, but you’ll have to interrupt the Instant Pot’s cooking process to add the pasta at the 8 minute mark (which means the unit will have to come back to pressure again – not a hardship, but be aware of the extra time involved). Or, probably faster, cook the pasta on the stove top and add it to the meatball soup at the very end.
Instant Pot Italian Meatball Soup with Fregola Pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (or use spray oil)
- 8 Carando Mozzarella Rustica Fresh Italian Style Meatballs (1 package)
- red wine vinegar
- 1/2 medium/large onion, diced
- 1/2 cup diced celery (about 2 ribs)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 15 ounces tomato sauce
- 1 cup fregola pasta (uncooked) or other small pasta (see notes)
- 1 big pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian herb blend
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 piece parm rind (1" x 2") (optional)
- salt and pepper
- 1 green onion, sliced thinly
- 1 tablespoons minced fresh flat leaf Italian parsley
- grated parm
- Add oil the inner pot of the Instant Pot (or spray with spray oil).
- Press the Saute button. The pot will begin to heat quickly and register "Hot" on the display, when ready.
- Add the meatballs to the pot using tongs. Let them brown on one side for a couple of minutes, and then flip the meatballs to brown the other side. (Tip: squeeze the tongs lightly and twist gently, if they're sticking to the pan.) Remove to a bowl.
- Turn off the unit (this is important - see Notes below)
- Quickly deglaze the inner pot with a splash of red wine vinegar and a metal spatula. Don't leave meatball residue stuck to the pan (again, see Notes below)
- Add the onions and celery and stir until softened. Add the garlic, tomato paste, and smoke paprika, stirring until combined.
- Return the meatballs to the pot, along with the remaining soup ingredients (not the garnishes).
- Close the lid and seal the vent. Set to manual high pressure for 12 minutes.
- Let the cooking cycle complete, and allow pressure to natural release for 10 minutes. Then quick release (cover the vent with a towel to prevent the steam from damaging anything above the unit, such as cabinets, and, of course, your hand).
- Carefully open the lid away from you. Stir the soup, and then find and remove the two bay leaves and the parm rind.
- Ladle into bowls and top with garnishes. Serve immediately.
- It's important to let the unit cool down just a bit after searing the meatballs by turning it off. Instant Pots have a tendency to generate a "Burn" warning when the pressure cook function is used immediately after something is sauteed in the inner pot. You won't lose any time doing this -- there will be plenty of heat to saute the onions and celery, and by the time aromatics have cooked, the unit will be plenty cool (although still quite hote) to proceed.
- It's also important to deglaze the pot after removing the meatballs. Too much meatball residue stuck on the bottom of the pan during pressure cooking can trigger the Burn message. Just use a splash of vinegar (or even water) and a sturdy metal spatula. Deglazing also mixes the yummy fond right into the soup, so, it's a win-win all around.
- If you can't find fregola, no problem. Use another small pasta, like ditalini or orzo. However, these pastas are more tender than fregola, so you'll have a better result by either cooking the pasta separately and adding at the very end; or, interrupting the pressure cooking process at the 8 minute mark, adding the dry pastas, and then finish the remaining time called for.
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