We proudly welcome the sweet and talented Diana von Glahn to our Soup & Stories series. Diana is the writer and host of the television series The Faithful Traveler, a program that explores Catholic places of pilgrimage around the world. EWTN recently broadcast The Faithful Traveler in the Holy Land, a six-episode series that has received rave reviews (we’re fans, too!). And get this, The Faithful Traveler crew is returning to the Holy Land in May during Pope Francis’ travels there, and Diana and crew will film a new program called Preparing for the Pope. What a well-earned and deserving opportunity!
In today’s Soup & Stories post, Diana shares her family’s recipe for albondigas, a Mexican soup with hearty chunks of vegetables and small rice-filled meatballs. We’re preparing this recipe for our Sunday meal tomorrow, and my tummy is already growling just looking at those photos below. Muy bueno!
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My parents were both born and mostly raised in Mexico — my mom in Colima and my dad in Ciudad Obregon, Sonora. This recipe comes from my Abuelita Susana, my mom’s mom, who was also born in Colima. I have no idea where she got this recipe, since her mother died as a result of stress brought on by the Cristero War. My Abuelita was raised by nuns because my grandfather couldn’t take care of all the kids. So perhaps this recipe comes from a Mexican nun who lived long ago. It is because of my Abuelita Susana that my family is Catholic today. Each day, she would greet her eleven children coming home from school with a piping hot bowl of soup. My mom remembers it fondly to this day. I have adopted my Bis-Abuelito (great-grandfather) Hipolito as my honorary Guardian Angel, because he was a very holy man who taught my mother a lot about her faith, thereby giving her the tools to teach us. I do believe he watches over me and prays for me still.
Regardless of the backstory, it is a yummy soup. In fact, it is my German-American husband’s FAVORITE soup. It’s relatively low in fat and high in veggies, so you can feel virtuous as you eat this healthy, yummy Mexican soup.
Albondigas — Mexican Meatball Soup (Download PDF copy here)
1 TBSP oil: lard or olive oil
1 white onion, diced
1 large tomato, diced
Water or chicken broth
1 TBSP chicken bouillon, optional
1.5-2 lbs ground beef
1 TBSP cumin seed
Fresh mint, chopped
¼ cup rice, partially cooked, drained, and cooled
4 Carrots, peeled and chopped
3 Zucchini, chopped
Small Head of green cabbage, shredded or chopped
2-3 round white potatoes, peeled and chopped (avoid Russets, they disintegrate)
Substitutions and Notes:
I’ve provided the ingredients that my family uses, but feel free to make this soup your own. It really doesn’t matter what kind of onion or tomato or potato you use, so use what you have handy.
- Olive oil is healthier, but lard, or manteca, as we call it, is more authentic.
- Yellow onion is fine, red onion may turn your soup purple. Same with purple cabbage.
- Any kind of tomato works.
- Instead of beef, you can substitute turkey for an even healthier meatball.
- Don’t have mint? I have used dried oregano in mine, and it tasted great!
- The rice and egg hold the meatballs together, so don’t omit them.
- Add any veggies you like. My mom adds green beans, but I think this is a relatively new thing. I don’t remember her doing that when I was a kid.
In a large soup pot (mine is 4 quarts) over medium-high heat, add the cooking oil. Once the oil is hot, add half of the onion and half of the tomato. Reserve the rest. Sauté the mixture for about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add water or chicken broth to the middle of the height of your pot (so, in a 4-quart pot, use 2 quarts). If you use water, add the chicken bouillon for flavor. (See note below about the bouillon I use.) Raise the heat to high and bring the water to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, add the ground beef, the reserved tomato and onion, cumin, mint, rice, and eggs. Take your rings off, put them in a safe place, then mix the ingredients in the bowl with your hands. Start forming the meat mixture into little balls, about an inch in diameter. You don’t want the meatballs to be too big or they’ll be hard to eat. You also want them about the same size, so they all cook at the same time.
Drop the meatballs into the boiling water gently so they don’t fall apart. Sometimes they do. Don’t worry about it. They won’t be whole in your belly! As you add the meatballs into your soup, watch the water level of your pot. You still have to add your veggies, so leave room. The more you add, the higher your water level goes. To be safe, leave a little meat mixture in the bowl, then add your veggies. If you have to freeze the leftover and use it later, that’s ok.
At this stage, the soup should be hot but not boiling. If it’s boiling still, lower the heat to medium. Now move on to the veggies. Start with the hard veggies first, so they have more time to cook. Add the carrots, zucchini, cabbage, then potatoes. Hopefully, your soup pot isn’t overflowing at this stage.
Lower the heat (to low), cover the soup, and let it simmer for about 30 to 45 minutes.
Enjoy with corn tortillas cooked over an open flame. Or just as is.
Note about my bouillon: I use Knorr’s Chicken Bouillon or, as I call it, Mexican MSG. Yes, it has MSG in it, so if you’re sensitive, avoid it. But if you can find it, by all means, try it. It is magic, as most MSG products are. I’m all for clean eating, and I do it as much as I can, but this is my biggest chemical exception. If you try it, you’ll see why.
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