Hearty soups with a beef base are also often eaten as family meals, particularly in Mexico’s cattle ranching regions. Here is a hearty and inexpensive meatball soup flavored with a combination of mint and onion. The soup is filling, and with a salad or warm corn tortillas, makes a satisfying meal. As is traditional in Mexico, the soup is thickened with pureed vegetables rather than flour or cornstarch.
Sopa de Albondigas (Meatball Soup) – serves 4
Puree for thickening:
- 1-1/4 c. water
- 1/4 c. Vidalia or Maui onions, diced
- 3/4 c. baking potatoes, diced
- 1/3 c. carrots, peeled and diced
- 1/4 c. celery, diced OR 1/4 c. frozen peas
- 1 garlic clove, sliced
- 2-1/2 cups beef broth, MSG-free
- 1/2 c. water
- 2 Tbsp. sherry
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 tsp. dried parsley
- 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 egg
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper (optional)
- 2 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves, chopped fine
- 1/2 c. green onion, chopped
- all-purpose flour
- vegetable oil
- 1/3 c. uncooked white rice
- salt to taste
For Puree: Add the water for puree to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, rinse diced onions in a sieve under cold running water (to help remove sulfur acids). Add onions and remaining vegetables for the puree. When mixture returns to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook 20 minutes. Let cool slightly then puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. (Can be frozen for later use at this point.) You can make the soup while you let the puree cool a bit.
For Soup: In a large saucepan combine the beef broth for the soup, water, sherry, bay leaf, and parsley. Place soup over medium heat and simmer. Add the puree. In a bowl combine the ground beef, egg, pepper, mint, and green onion for the meatballs. Mix meatball ingredients well. Pour a bit of oil into a skillet and heat. Form meatballs about 1-1/4 inches across. Roll meatballs in flour to lightly coat, and fry in oil until browned. As batches of meatballs are done, drop into hot simmering soup.
In the hot skillet you used to fry the meatballs, fry rice in a little oil until rice becomes white and opaque and some grains turn lightly golden. Stir while cooking, scraping up browned bits. Drop rice into the hot soup.
Cover and simmer soup until rice is tender, about 20-25 minutes. Add salt to taste. Add water or beef broth as needed if too much has boiled off. Remove bay leaf and serve.
Note: It’s well worth the trouble to make a double batch then freeze half. It keeps well for a month or two when frozen. Also, you don’t have to thicken it…. or you can thicken it to the point of being a thick stew. It’s tasty either way!