albóndigas soup

October 9, 2015 § 62 Comments


Isn’t it wonderful to have a pot of soup simmering on the stove on an overcast day?   We’ve had our share of overcast days here in Seattle lately and what’s better than a tasty bowl of albóndigas soup!

What I love most about albondigas soup is the texture of the moist and tender meatballs. The meatballs are packed with spices, mint, rice and zucchini.  The rice grains cook inside the meatballs and puff up as they simmer, which creates a lovely tender, moist texture.  This is a pleasantly mild soup, so if you are in the mood for spicy, you may add a few sliced jalapeños to the simmering sauce.

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1/2 cup long white rice
  • boiling water – enough to cover 1/2 cup rice
  • 1 -1/2 pounds of lean ground beef
  • 2 small zucchini squash, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano
  • 3 sprigs of fresh mint or 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/3 onion, chopped
  • 3 medium tomatoes (about 3/4 pound)
  • 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
  • Boiling water to cover tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • Avocado, fresh cilantro, lime wedges (for garnish)


Cover the rice well with boiling water and let it soak for about 45 minutes. Trim the zucchini and chop them very finely.  Combine the squash, chopped onion and beef to a medium size bowl. Blend the eggs with the herbs and spices until smooth. Mix well with the beef and zucchini. Add salt.  Drain the rice and add it to the mixture. Make 24 meat balls, each about 1-1/2 inch in diameter, or any size of your preference and set aside.
Pour the boiling water over the tomatoes and allow them to sit for 5 minutes. Peel the skins off of the tomatoes, place them into the blender along with the chopped garlic and blend until almost smooth.
Heat the oil and cook the onion gently, until soft. Add the tomato puree, bring it to boil, and let it cook for about 3 minutes. Add the broth to the tomato sauce and lower to a simmer.
Add the meatballs, cover the pan, and  simmer for approximately one hour and 30 minutes. Serve in deep bowls with plenty of sauce.  Garnish with fresh cilantro,  avocado and a squeeze of lime.

minestrone con il pesto

September 30, 2013 § 43 Comments

This is a perfect soup for day three of a constant downpour here in Seattle.  Years ago I was skimming through a friend’s cookbook and found this recipe.   I asked her for a scratch piece of paper and all she could find was a sticky pad.   Using a red ink pen, I proceeded to handwrite  the recipe in the tiniest penmanship I could in order to fit it on the two sides of the 2×4 sticky paper.   Here we are nearly thirteen years later and I finally made the soup!


The flavor base of this soup is exceptional.  You first make a buttuto, which is a combination of onion, celery, garlic, carrot and pancetta (or bacon).  The name buttuto (italian) means to strike or, in this case, chop.   Once you have chopped your buttuto it becomes a soffritto, which simply means to sauté over high heat until lightly colored.   Chop and sauté.  So simple, flavorful and a beautiful foundation for this comforting soup.

I n g r e d i e n t s


  • 4 cups packed basil
  • 1 cup parmesan,  grated
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • a little salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 plum tomato, seeds removed


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 ounces pancetta or 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 1 medium size yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1/4 head Savoy cabbage, cored and thinly shredded
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 7 whole, peeled canned tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup broken dried spaghetti
  • 1 – 15 oz. can cannelini beans
  • salt and pepper to taste

M e t h o d

Make the pesto.  Place all the pesto ingredients in a food processor and whizz until finely chopped. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Heat oil in a heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat.  Add pancetta and cook, stirring often, until fat has rendered, about 2 minutes.  Add garlic, carrots, celery, and onions and reduce heat to medium.  Cover and cook stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, 12–15 minutes.  Add zucchini and cabbage.  Cover and cook until wilted, 3–5 minutes.  Add stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.  Drain and rinse the cannelini beans.  Mash half the beans with a fork and add to the soup along with whole beans—cook until warmed through.  Season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and serve with pesto dolloped on top.

Serves 4.

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