With Cinco de Mayo approaching, it’s time to celebrate Mexican and Mexican-American culture. I wanted to do something beyond tacos to demonstrate the country’s rich and varied food culture, and so I present Sope de Albondigas, or Mexican Meatball Soup. In Spain albondigas are often simmered in tomato sauce and eaten as tapas. Because of Spanish colonization in the Americas, meatballs are also called albondigas in Mexico, Columbia, Nicaragua, and other parts of South and Central America, where they are typically served with rice and vegetables in this mildly flavored soup.
I love how versatile this soup is. Use whatever vegetables you have on hand; corn, potatoes, celery and bell peppers are also particularly good. Make the meatballs with pork instead of beef, or a mixture of both. There’s also a version with chicken instead, and others where the rice is in the broth instead of the meatballs. I like how the rice in the meatballs expands and sticks out a little as they cook, making them look like little porcupines.
- Olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- ¼ cup uncooked long grain white rice
- 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Salt and pepper
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- ½ tablespoon cumin
- 3 quarts (12 cups) chicken stock
- 2 large carrots, sliced
- 1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
- 1 zucchini, sliced in half moons
- In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, rice, breadcrumbs, cilantro, parsley and egg. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate while you get the soup started.
- Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cumin. Add the chicken broth. Bring to a strong simmer. Add the carrots.
- Remove the meat mixture from the fridge. Form into 25 to 30 small meatballs, dropping them into the simmering soup as you go.
- Cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Add the corn and zucchini and cook for another 10 minutes, covered. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve and garnish with additional chopped cilantro, if you like.
Make gluten free by omitting the breadcrumbs or replacing them with a gluten free variety.