This simple yet hearty soup of meatballs and vegetables yields a bowl of satisfying Mexican comfort food that can be further customized many different ways.
Every state in Mexico has its own variation of sopa de albóndigas (literally, “meatball soup”) but there are some common factors. Ground beef is the preferred protein, plentiful in the northern regions, but ground pork can be added for taste and texture. Masa harina is used here as a binder, lending its flavor as well as a finer texture to the formed meat. If unable to be sourced, finely chop some dry corn tortillas in a food processor as a substitute as they are essentially the same.
The other common factor is the presence of mint, used either to flavor the broth or included in the meatball itself. This soup is not highly spiced like many other Mexican dishes but it is the milder herbal elements of fresh cilantro and mint that give this dish its home-style, comforting nature. It is a perfect balm for colder weather, and freezes very well.
Most any combination of chopped vegetables can be used, from potatoes to chayote to any squash or root vegetable, with zucchini a common favorite. For more starchy vegetables like tubers or carrots, add them earlier to cook through completely; for lighter or more delicate squash like zucchini, only a short boil in the broth is necessary.
Serve this soup piping hot with plenty of fresh corn tortillas slathered with melted butter and a pinch of salt.
Sopa de Albóndigas
1 lb ground beef
4-oz can of green chiles
3 cloves of garlic
2 green onions
½ yellow onion
14.5-oz can of tomatoes (diced)
4 c beef broth
¼ c masa harina
1 bay leaf
½ t garlic powder
1 T mint (fresh)
1 Finely chop the mint and combine with the beef, masa, garlic powder, black pepper, salt and ¼ c water. Form into meatballs about 1-inch in diameter and set aside.
2 Briefly sauté a garlic clove in hot oil until it begins to brown, about 1 min. Remove and discard.
3 Roughly chop the onions and slice thin the remaining garlic. Sauté in the garlic oil until soft, about 5 min. Add the tomatoes, chiles, cilantro and bay leaf, and season to taste.
4 Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, chop the zucchini and add along with the meatballs. Simmer, covered, for 20 min.