Every region has a traditional soup that's handed down from one kitchen to another. And we were fortunate to have albondigas soup, caldo de albondigas made for us at a friend's home in La Paz, by her own mother. So there was no doubt we were tucking into a truly authentic meal.
What still sticks in my memory about the soup was the heat in both the meatballs and the actual soup. And while there was a hint of spice to it, the dish gave off heat the was just the right amount.
Of course, I scoped out the recipe, and our chef was happy to oblige. Over the last few years, I've altered the recipe slightly to make the soup a bit thicker and spicier. The last time I made it, Katherine grabbed a bit queso blanco we had in the fridge and shredded just a little on top of her bowl. I tasted it and then proceeded to shred a whole lot more.
As for the meatballs themselves, you should prepare them ahead of time and let them sit in the fridge for a day or so. It'll allow for the spices and herbs to slowly infuse the meat.
Also, I prefer a chunkier soup and leave bits of Roma tomatoes in the soup, but the version we had back in La Paz was closer to a stock with tomato paste.
I would even suggest you let the seasons dictate how you make the soup. Summer? Go for a lighter stock/broth. Fall or Winter? Make the soup heartier and thick enough to scoop it onto a thick slice of bread.
The Perfect Meatball
While the soup is rich and layered in flavor, the meatballs will make or break your dish depending on how you prepare them.
There are three main ways a meatball can go very, very wrong. Let's take look at each and I'll offer a tried and true method to make sure a meatball disaster doesn't happen to you.
Why do meatballs fall apart?
Meatballs commonly fall apart because they are not rolled tightly. Make sure to apply firm pressure as you roll the meatballs between your hands.
Why do meatballs stick to the pan?
Mainly because the oil in the pan isn't hot enough when you place the meatballs down. Heat the oil first, until it smokes very lightly.
Why did my meatballs turn out so hard?
If your meatballs are hard its because they are overcooked. It shouldn't take more than four minutes in the pan and five minutes in the oven to finish.
Bonus question: Why do my meatballs look so gray? If you sear your meatballs all around they will have a golden brown color to them, but also make sure you're using fresh ground beef.
Falls in love with a warm and soft flour tortilla
Stirs memories of a warm and cozy kitchen in La Paz
In the spice chest, you'll find ancho chili, cumin, and black pepper
Suggestions and Alternatives
- If you want to make a lighter soup don't add tomato paste, and use one cup beef stock and one cup water.
- Our recipe stems from Baja, so I didn't add rice. You can however to your version. Rice will go well with either the thick or looser soup.
- Feel free to use turkey for the meatballs if you're watching your red meat intake and make them as per the recipe. They'll probably turn out even juicier.
Make our other Baja, Mexico recipes
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- 1/2 pound ground beef
- 1 link Mexican chorizo
- 1/2 tablespoon cumin ground
- 1/4 teaspoon ancho chili ground
- 2 teaspoons black pepper ground
- 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano ground
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 sprig mint chopped
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 tablespoons garlic minced
- 1 cup yellow onion
- 5 whole Roma tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 cup queso fresco
- 1/2 cup cilantro
- Using a large bowl add ground beef, and one Mexican chorizo (ground).
- Add ground cumin, ancho chili, two tsp. ground black pepper, one tbs. Mexican Oregano (dried) Kosher salt, chopped mint, and two tbs. Worcestershire sauce.
- Using your well-washed hands fold all ingredients together until thoroughly incorporated.
- Roll out twelve medium size meatballs and place them in large saute pan with two tbs. olive oil.
- Turn stove on to medium low heat and sear for three minutes. Gently turn meatballs over and sear for another three minutes, and until sides are golden brown.
- Remove from pan and place on sheet tray.
- Preheat oven to 350 f. and cook all meatballs for five minutes.
- Remove from oven and set aside.
- In a medium sized pot add four tbs. olive oil and four tbs. minced garlic.
- Saute for two minutes then add one cup minced yellow onions.
- Saute for three minutes then add five rough chopped Roma tomatoes (with seeds).
- Saute for three minutes then add three tbs. tomato paste.
- Stir until tomato paste has incorporated then cover and set aside
- Leave covered for four minutes.
- Remove lid and add two cups beef stock, bring to a boil and turn off heat.
- Ladle out desired amount of soup onto a bowl and add three to four meatballs per bowl.
- Crumble queso fresco over each bowl and picked cilantro leaves to garnish.