Last night, I made a quick soup that is one of my favorites. I never measure anything and never make it the same way twice, but instead use whatever I have on hand. The two components that I think make it special and unique though are the tender meatballs and sweet rutabagas.
I’ve been having busy workdays this past week and yesterday Joe pinged me to say he’d invited friends over for coffee after dinner. Since I hadn’t yet planned dinner and knew it would have to be something quick, I decided to throw a pot of soup on the stove. We had the soup when Joe came home and both gulped it down and then promptly cleaned the house.
Today, I woke up and walked the dog at 6:30am on what turned out to be a very cold morning. After I came in and made some coffee, my head felt thick and achy as I dove into work emails. I remembered we had leftover soup and decided it would be my late breakfast / early lunch.
As with any soup, it’s always better the next day. The flavors somehow deepen and meld together to form a soul-soothing richness. This bowl of soup (photos taken on day after it was made) melted away my aches and made me want to curl up into a ball.
The star ingredients are the rutabagas and meatballs. I love all root veggies but in particular rutabagas have become my go-to ingredient for soups. They are mild, sweet, and add a cabbage-like flavor that I think enhances any soup. When they cook, the flesh turns a wonderful golden yellow.
If you don’t know what rutabagas look like, you’re not alone. The last two times I’ve bought them, the young grocery clerks flip through papers and ultimately ring them up as turnips. And since turnips are cheaper, I don’t bother correcting their mistake.
While rutabagas do have a purplish top, turnips tend to be smaller and have a whiter body. Rutabagas have a creamier/yellow body and can be the size of a small cabbage. When picking one out, go for a mid-sized rutabaga with firm flesh.
As for the meatballs, I use lean ground beef — and no, they don’t turn out hard or dry. I soften the meatballs with bread crumbs, milk, and eggs (and lightly season with herbs) then poach them in the soup as it cooks. I believe in thoroughly mashing the meat with a big wooden spoon to break up any of its texture. The result is tender, flavorful meatballs that almost make me whimper with delight.
Meatball & Rutabaga Soup Recipe
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
1 stalks celery, sliced
8 cups chicken broth
1 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
2-3 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon grated parmesan
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
In a large pot, add the olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Add carrots, rutabaga, and celery. Cook, stirring often, for 3-5 minutes. The goal is to get them to begin softening and to lightly brown. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Using a large spoon, thoroughly combine the mix, making sure to break up the ground meat texture. After the ingredients are combined, I use the spoon to ‘smear’ the meat mixture around, to turn it almost into a meat paste.
Roll the meat into balls about the size of a walnut and gently place into the boiling soup mixture. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through and vegetables tender. Taste broth and adjust salt/pepper to your liking.