Popular in Hispanic America as a hearty meatball soup loaded with vegetables, sopa de albóndigas is a perfect fit for cold nights, easing ailments, or just as familiar comfort food.
Recipes will differ from family to family, but the basics are the same: meatballs and vegetables in a well-seasoned broth. Other vegetables you might find in this soup are chayote, green beans, corn, and celery; and the beef can be replaced with ground pork or turkey, or a combination of meats, then finish the soup with a wedge of lime, sliced avocado, or fresh chopped cilantro before serving.
This recipe serves 4-6.
1 lb ground beef
½ medium onion, finely minced
⅓ cup long grain rice, parcooked
1 tsp Mexican oregano, dried
½ tsp adobo seasoning
½ tsp spearmint, dried
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large russet potato, peeled and cut to 1” cubes
2 medium carrots, sliced to ¼” rounds
2 small zucchinis, sliced into ½” rounds
1 tbsp tomato paste or tomato powder
Salt and pepper
Lime wedges (optional)
Avocado, sliced (optional)
Cilantro, freshly chopped (optional)
First, prepare the meatballs. Combine all the albóndigas ingredients in a bowl, and with clean hands, knead thoroughly for a few minutes until the seasonings and vegetables are evenly mixed and the meat holds when pressed together. Form 1”-1½” meatballs (you should be able to get about 30 meatballs) and set aside until ready to use.
Cook’s note: To parcook the rice, use a small saucepan and cover the rice with 1” water. Boil for 5 minutes and drain in a mesh strainer. Alternatively, place the rice in a large microwave-safe bowl, cover with 1” water and heat on high for 5 minutes, then drain in a mesh strainer. Allow the rice to cool before using.
To make the broth, set a large pot over medium heat, along with 1-2 tbsp oil. Add the onions, and a pinch of salt. Sauté until the onion turns translucent, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and sauté 1 minute more or until fragrant. Add the tomato paste or powder to the pot and stir to caramelize, 2-3 minutes.
Add about ½ cup broth to the pot and scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot, working to dissolve the tomato, then add the remaining liquid. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Carefully add the potatoes and meatballs, then lower the heat to medium to simmer 5 minutes. Add the carrots and zucchini and bring the pot back up to a simmer. Continue cooking until the meatballs and vegetables are cooked through, another 10-15 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow the soup to cool slightly before serving with chopped fresh cilantro, a lime wedge, or sliced avocados, if desired.