Romanian Sour Soup with Meatballs

image of a bowl of soup and bread

Romanian Sour Soup with Meatballs

After enjoying this delicious soup at an Atlanta restaurant, I began researching it and put together this recipe so I could enjoy it again, it’s that good!  Instead of using dry breadcrumbs, grind up a piece or two of fresh bread in a food processor or blender.  Fresh breadcrumbs will create a lighter texture in the meatballs.  Grating the onion instead of dicing it will help to add more moisture to the meatballs as well as prevent you from having crunchy pieces of raw onion inside the meatballs.  Fresh parsley is an absolute must. Do not substitute dry.  Traditionally this soup is garnished with chopped lovage, an herb rarely found in the US.  Finely chopped celery leaves will make a suitable substitute.   The meatballs get poached right in the soup which makes this a one-pot meal and enhances the flavor of the soup.   Despite looking like a lengthy list of ingredients, this is a quick soup that can be prepared in about 1 hour.

Yield:  About 6 Servings as a main course

Meatballs:

1 egg

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 ¼ teaspoons ground coriander

½ teaspoon ground allspice

1 lb. ground pork or beef, or a combination of both

½ medium yellow onion

½ cup fresh breadcrumbs

¼ cup long grain rice, raw

2 Tablespoons minced fresh dill (or 1 tablespoon dry)

2 Tablespoons minced parsley

Soup:

2 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, diced ¼”

2 carrots, diced ¼”

2 stalks celery, diced ¼”

1 parsnip, peeled and grated

1 ½ teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 quart chicken stock

2 cups water

2 medium red or white-skinned potatoes, diced ½”

¼ cup + 1 tablespoon cider vinegar or lemon juice

2 tablespoons minced fresh dill

2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

2 tablespoons minced celery leaves

½ cup sour cream

Meatballs:

Crack the egg into a small bowl.  Add the salt and beat well to loosen the proteins of the eggs.  Add the pepper, coriander, and allspice and beat well to combine.  Set aside.

Place ground meat in a medium mixing bowl.  Using a box or other grater, grate the onion into the ground meat.  Add the breadcrumbs, raw rice, herbs, and the egg mixture.  Using your hands, combine the mixture together thoroughly without squeezing and handling it excessively.  Too much handling will make it stickier and harder to work with.  Using a small portion scoop that’s about 1 ½ inches across (I recommend a #40 or #50 size), scoop meat into balls onto a plate.  Alternatively, use a spoon to scoop up about 1 ½ tablespoons of meat.  Once all meat is scooped, moisten your hands in some cold water and quickly roll the mounds into smooth balls and return to the plate, stacking as needed.  Place the meatballs in the refrigerator to chill until needed.  Preparing and chilling the meatballs in advance will help them hold together when you put them into the soup and the breadcrumbs will have a chance to absorb moisture and hydrate.

Soup:

Place a 4-quart pot over medium-low heat and begin to melt the butter.  Add the diced onion, carrot, celery and grated parsnip.  Season with the salt and pepper and cook over medium heat until vegetables begin to sweat and onions start to become translucent.   Add the tomato paste to the vegetables and stir to coat them completely with the paste.  Add chicken stock and water to the pot and turn heat up to medium-high.

When soup starts to simmer around the outer edges, turn to medium and cook until the carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. 

While soup is simmering, combine the minced dill, parsley and celery leaves in a small dish.  Set aside until needed for serving.

When carrots are tender, add the diced potatoes to the soup and stir to combine.  Make sure the soup is simmering before adding the meatballs one at a time, evenly around the soup pot.  Once the meatballs are in the pot, don’t stir or you’ll break them up.  Allow the meatballs to cook for about 8-10 minutes before gently turning them over to make sure they all cook evenly.  The meatballs and potatoes will take about 20 minutes to cook.

Test a meatball for doneness by remove one and cutting it in half to be sure it’s done throughout.

When meatballs are done, stir in the cider vinegar or lemon juice and half of the chopped herbs. Taste and adjust soup seasoning with additional salt and pepper if necessary.

Spoon several meatballs into the center of a large soup bowl and ladle the soup around them.  Garnish the top of the meatballs with a tablespoon of sour cream and a sprinkling of the herbs.

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