This recipe was first brought to you by me early on in 2010. It was an amazingly delicious recipe accompanied by one amazingly ugly photograph. I love this recipe too much to let it live such an unattractive existence on the internets so I’m bringing it back with new photos that do it justice.
I have made Sopa de Albóndigas, or Meatball soup, every Christmas Eve since the Professor and I began dating oh so many years ago. We would never travel for the holidays because we both were in the restaurant business and those days before and after Christmas meant big money for the Professor who was at that time was better know as The Bartender. He usually only had Christmas Day off, so after arriving home late Christmas Eve night we would sit around our little linoleum dinette in our tiny apartment kitchen and eat Sopa de Albóndigas and cornbread muffins. Our lives have changed quite drastically since those late nights in our one-room apartment, mostly for the better, but this soup always reminds me of that lovely little kitchen and those wonderful Christmas Eve nights.
We hardly reserve this soup for one night of the year however, a warming soup like this one is perfect for taking the chill out of any evening, and unfortunately we are still suffering through plenty of those. Brothy soups dotted with tender meatballs and rice can be found from Northern Mexico to the tip of Patagonia, this version made with smoky chipotle chiles is popular in central and southern Mexico, especially around the area of Guerrero.
Tender pork and beef meatballs seasoned with chipotle and garlic are the stars of the show. But the warm and comforting broth, and rice and vegetables, both of which help cool the tongue if you happen upon a particularly fiery chile, hold their own.
Though mint is a popular addition to this soup, I prefer the green, earthy flavor of cilantro. Experiment for yourself and feel free to switch up the vegetables for whatever you have on hand. Baby spinach leaves melt nicely into this soup, but green beans, carrots, peas, and other fresh seasonal ingredients work well too. Another bonus: this soup keeps well and actually becomes more flavorful as it sits, making it the perfect mid-week meal.
Meatballs can be made up to 1 day in advance, covered and chilled.
- 1/3 cup panko
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 yellow onion, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 chipotles in adobo, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, small dice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 jalapenos, seeded and small diced
- 2 quarts chicken stock or broth
- 1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 cup cilantro
- 3 cups cooked long grain white rice
- 3 cups baby spinach
- Lime wedges, for serving
- In a large bowl, combine egg and bread crumbs. Heat oven to 400°F.
- Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, but not browned. Add chipotle, cumin, and oregano and stir to combine. Transfer to the large bowl with the bread crumbs.
- Add remaining ingredients and 1 teaspoon kosher salt and mix well with your hands. Form scant tablespoon-sized balls and place on a baking sheet (you should have about 50 meatballs).
- Bake meatballs until browned and firm, about 20 minutes.
- Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and jalapeno and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender. Add stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and add meatballs, and any juices remaining on baking sheet. Let simmer, covered, about 1 hour or until soup is infused with meaty flavor. Stir in cilantro and taste adding more salt if necessary.
- To serve, spoon some rice into each bowl and top with a handful of spinach. Ladle soup over the top and serve with a lime wedge for squeezing.