Albondigas soup is a traditional Mexican meatball soup ("albondigas" means "meatballs" in Spanish) that my mother has cooked for our family for almost 50 years. It is our version of comfort food. What makes the flavor of albondigas soup distinctive is the chopped mint in the meatballs. I once complained to a Mexican chef about the lack of mint in his cookbook's albondigas soup recipe, and he looked at me with surprise and said, "my mother puts mint in her albondigas!" You can, of course, skip the mint, substitute with a little fresh oregano or some cilantro, but to me, the soup's not the same without it. You can also vary the vegetables added, depending on what you have on hand and what's in season.
If fresh mint is not available, you can use a couple teaspoons of dried mint from herbal mint tea. You can also vary the vegetables depending on what you have on hand. Spring peas in their pods instead of shucked peas, for example. Or you could add some chopped fresh zucchini or corn. My mother often puts a couple extra tablespoons of chopped fresh mint directly into the soup. Feel free to substitute ground turkey for the ground beef, we do it often.
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 quarts chicken stock or beef stock OR water OR a mixture of both (we usually use half stock half water as the meatballs will create their own stock)*
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 pound string beans, strings and ends removed, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup raw white rice
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
A dash of cayenne (optional)
1 1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled, or 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
*If using prepared stock, be sure to use gluten-free stock if you are cooking gluten-free.
Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed pot (5-quart) over medium heat.
Add onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook a minute more.
Add broth mixture and tomato sauce.
Bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer.
Add carrots and string beans.
Prepare the meatballs:
Mix rice into meat, adding mint leaves and parsley, salt and pepper.
Mix in the egg.
Form mixture into 1-inch meatballs.
Add the meatballs to the simmering soup, one at a time.
Cover and let simmer for 1/2 hour.
Add the peas towards the end of the 1/2 hour.
Add a few pinches of oregano and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and a dash of cayenne, to taste.
Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.