Meatballs in Broth with vegetables

The exact origin of meatballs would be very hard to pinpoint and, most likely, they were invented independently in different regions of the globe.  Some examples of the first known meatball dishes are: 1) Shumai, meatballs wrapped in dough, are thought to have originated in Cantonese teahouses along the Silk Road; 2) Kofta, from Persia, the cradle of civilization; and 3) Polpettes, known in Italy since ancient Rome times as small balls made from fish, turkey and other kinds of meat, seldomly served with pasta or sauce as in the US, but plain, or in a light soup broth.  In Spain and Hispanic America, including Mexico, meatballs are called albóndigas, derived from the Arabic al-bunduq (al is an article and bunduq means hazelnut); meatballs used to be a poor-man‘s dish, made with little meat and very small in size, so they probably had a resemblance to the small round nut, and hence, the name.  Albóndigas in particular are thought to have originated as a Berber or Arab dish exported to Spain during the period of Muslim rule.  When they were brought to Mexico, they did not become wan, but acquired a rich local flavour, served in a tomato-based broth (caldillo) and often seasoned with fresh or dry peppers (such as jalapeño or chipotle), or cooked as a soup with vegetables, as in this recipe.

Meatballs in Broth with vegetables –

Albóndigas en caldillo con verduras

Printable recipe: Meatballs in Broth with Vegetables

1 lb (454 g) lean ground meat (beef, pork, or mixed)
slice bread; broken into small pieces
¼ cup
½ tsp
dry spearmint
½ tsp
Salt, or to taste
¼ tsp black pepper, or to taste
tomatoes; stem spot removed, cut into quarters
¼ onion; peeled and cut into large chunks
2 cloves garlic; peeled and cut in half
1 tbsp oil
4-5 cups water, or as needed
1 carrot; washed, peeled and sliced thinly into rounds
1 zucchini; washed, cut into quarters lengthwise, then sliced into small pieces
1 chayote, optional; washed, peeled and cut into small cubes
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Cilantro leaves, to decorate, optional

Place ground meat, egg, bread, milk, spearmint, salt and pepper in a bowl (photo below, left); beat the egg with a fork, then mix all ingredients together (photo below, right):

Continue kneading with clean hands until the mix looks uniform.  Divide into 16 portions, and form each one into a ball; set aside:

003 meatballs

Process tomatoes, onion and garlic in the blender until smooth; in a large pot, warm up oil over medium-high heat, then add tomato mix, stirring and frying the sauce for 2-3 minutes (photo below, left).  After the tomato mix has cooked and become fragrant, add two cups of water (photo below, right):

Bring back to boil, then carefully drop meatballs into the pot, one by one (photo below, left); add 2 more cups of water, or enough to cover the meatballs, gently stirring to incorporate all the ingredients (photo below, right):

Bring to boil again, then lower the heat to a simmer, and cook, covered, for 15 minutes.  Add carrots (photo below, left) and chayotes, if using (I could not find any at the store this time), cover and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Add zucchini (photo below, right):

Season with salt and pepper to taste, and continue simmering, covered, for about five minutes, until the zucchini are cooked but still firm.  Serve hot, decorated with cilantro leaves (optional):

012 meatballs in broth with vegetables

This dish is also known as Sopa de albóndigas – (Mexican) Meatball Soup.  On the day I prepared the batch for this post, constant rain mixed with ice made the air feel damp and cold.  That evening, a large bowl of this soup, along with a basket of warm bread and corn tortillas, was the epitome of comfort food to undermine the effects of the miserable weather.

I am joining Fiesta Friday # 264 with Angie @ Fiesta Friday, co-hosting this week with Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau




22 thoughts on “Meatballs in Broth with vegetables

    1. I think it is the “caldillo” (tomato based broth); the spearmint I think has a Middle Eastern influence. If you like spicy food add either a couple of pickled chipotle or fresh jalapeño peppers during simmering; that’s definitely Mexican!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Irene,
    I have made several versions of this soup but have never been thrilled about them, so yours is going on my must try soon list! I bet it warmed you up from the inside out. Spearmint is an addition I haven’t seen before.

    Thanks for linking up to us at Fiesta Friday!



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