Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a stew)

The Guy (also known as Max) and I have a shared resolution this year: We Must Lose Weight And Get Fitter Or Else. He has high blood pressure, I have high or disturbingly fluctuating blood sugar. But we both have this basic problem, that we love to eat good food. And, especially during the day, we need our tummies comfortably filled or we get cranky.

One solution to this problem: soup for lunch! Soup for bentos does mean either that you need access to a microwave at lunchtime, or using a thermal bento or lunch jar. But on cold days, this little inconvenience is well worth it.

A really filling soup is a meal unto itself, so all you need to do is to fill up a lunch jar and go. If you get really hungry, add some cooked vegetables and perhaps a little carb - some rice or other grains, a piece of crusty bread, a couple of crackers.

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This very hearty soup that is almost a stew is The Guy’s invention. The advantage of using meatballs is that they can’t overcook - they just absorb more flavor and get softer and moister and more delicious. I did add a twist to it by adding some miso as a ‘hidden taste’ (you don’t really taste miso, just the umami of the miso). Tip: Cut the carrots and celery into fairly large chunks rather than itty bits, to get the feeling you are ‘eating’ rather than just drinking soup.

I can attest for the fact that it is very filling on its own. The Guy snuck in some, packed in a lunch jar of course, during my last hospital stay. It was the best meal I had in there by far, and it was still piping hot after being in transit. This is not a quick-cook soup, so make it in quantity and have some for dinner, more for bento, and freeze the rest in portions. I’ll show you how it can be packed as part of a multi-course bento in the next installment. I don’t actually mind having this every day for lunch until the batch runs out.

Recipe: Hearty meatball and vegetable stew that’s almost a stew

Makes 8 hearty servings

For the meatballs:

  • 350g / 12 oz. lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup or so dried bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. or so black pepper

For the soup:

  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 small bunch parsley
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into chunks
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into chunks

Additions to soup at the end:

  • 1 tablespoon white or red miso
  • additional parsley (chopped or a leaf or two) for garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large, heavy bottomed pan, saute the 2 chopped onions and garlic cloves in olive oil over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent. Add 2 cups of plain water and bring up to a boil. Lower the heat to a slow simmer and simmer for about 10 minutes.

While that simmers, make the meatballs. Mix all the meatball ingredients together in a bowl - your clean hands are the best tool for this. Form into about 30 small meatballs.

Add the rest of the soup ingredients to the pot (except for the ones listed under “additions, plus 6 cups of water. Bring up to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Put in the meatballs (no need to brown them or anything beforehand). Simmer for at least half an hour.

Dissolve the miso paste in some of the hot soup liquid, then add the whole thing to the pot. Taste, and season with salt and pepper.

The soup improves after resting for a day or more. You may want to skim off the oil that accumulates at the top.

To serve, garnish with more chopped parsley. (Don’t put the bay leaf or the parsley bunch in any of the servings.)

Estimated calories per 1 cup serving with 3 meatballs is 200 calories, give or take a few calories.

Freezing notes

This soup freezes very well - mainly because no potatoes are included. Frozen cooked potatoes turn into an awful mealy mush. If you want potatoes with your soup, just carry along some boiled potatoes separately.

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24 comments

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Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

Oh. My. Gosh. Just exactly what I was looking to put in our thermal lunch jars for tomorrow. Thanks! And tell Max he's brilliant.

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

sounds like tonights dinner!!

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

This looks so delicious I can almost smell it. I learned long ago that adding miso to homemade soups gave them the "ooomph" that bullion does but without an overly salty flavor. Adding tomatoes also boosts the flavor of soups that need "a little something". The chunky cut vegetables make it look even more inviting. Can't wait to try this one.

PS the in-laws often have just a bowl of soup for lunch and have done very well with their weight/health issues.

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

This looks so delicious I can almost smell it. I learned long ago that adding miso to homemade soups gave them the "ooomph" that bullion does but without an overly salty flavor. Adding tomatoes also boosts the flavor of soups that need "a little something". The chunky cut vegetables make it look even more inviting. Can't wait to try this one.

PS the in-laws often have just a bowl of soup for lunch and have done very well with their weight/health issues.

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

In cold weather I crave hot soup. This sounds and looks delicious. I'll try it next week in my brand spanking new thermal lunch jar! Thanks for tagging this one "low-carb" too.

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

This looks simply amazing. I grew up eating a similar dish as a child, thanks for bringing back the memories!

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

I've got it boiling on my stove right this minute! Can't wait! Only thing is I didn't have thyme or bay leaves...

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

This looks fantastic! I know from my own experience that I feel fuller if I have had a soup vs. a regular meal. I will be making this for tomorrow night. MMM...Can't hardly wait.

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

This looks good, but, question. I'm a vegetarian, so what would be a good vegetarian substitute for the meatballs? I know they make veggie meatballs but they are really processed and contain ingredients that I can't pronounce.

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

To be honest, I would just leave out the meatballs and increase the vegetables, and maybe add a bit more miso. I dislike vegetarian 'meat substitutes' intensely! An all-vegetable soup will taste great too. You can just add protein in the form of a little cheese on the side, or a bean salad or something like that, to make it a complete meal. (Adding precooked beans, e.g. chickpeas/garbanzos, to the soup would work too.)

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

When I'm in a vegan mood, I brown tofu pieces (sometimes in a dry pan, but usually with a coating of oil from the good ol' Misto sprayer) to add a meaty chew to whatever I'm cooking up.
I enjoy making little triangles by taking a slice off the tofu block about 1/2" thick and cutting diagonally to make 4 triangles, then halving those to end up with 8 bite-sized pieces total.
When they're browned on both sides, the pieces are small and pretty, but still big enough to sink my teeth into.

I've recently learned a Korean style of browning tofu &/or vegetables, which is to coat the pieces in beaten egg before laying them in a well-oiled medium temperature pan. A lot more fat, which I don't need, but this may be a good option for you if your non-meat diet doesn't include much fat otherwise.
I like zucchini/summer squash this way, with whole grains and quick pickled veg for a great "won't weigh me down" summer meal.
Hot grains, warm veg/egg, and super cold crunchy pickles = the best!
HTH.

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

Thanks Maki for the recipe!
I agree with you about those "mock meat".. it puzzles me no end why people would want to be vegetarian and still eat "meat". (In my hometown, there is a boom of Buddhism now, and tonnes of restaurants selling mock meat have sprouted out in recent years).
But I digress...

Just want to ask, this recipe calls for some dried breadcrumbs (as do some of the other recipes for mini burgers). The only breadcrumbs I've seen sold in the local supermarket is the soft panko that I use for korokke. Is it okay to use those?
If not, can I tear up a piece of fresh bread and use that?

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

Dried breadcrumbs are easy to make yourself, if you can't buy them - just put a slice of bread out on the counter and let it go stale (remember to flip it so it gets stale on both sides). Then grate it with a very fine grater, and voila, dried breadcrumbs!

I do this often, since I am gluten-intolerant and while it's possible to buy gluten-free bread, it's really hard to buy gluten-free breadcrumbs.

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

Why not just add Tofu, I love it with a lot of soups.

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

I'm making this up tonight for dinner tomorrow, but I'm subbing in low-sodium vegetable broth instead of water, and ground turkey for the beef. I'm thinking with the low-heat and long cooking time, they'll have plenty of opportunity to pick up the flavors of the soup and won't dry out. We'll see how it turns out!

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

Looks delicious! This blog always makes me hungry!

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

Oh my. I made this a couple of hours ago and put it in the crock pot. My house smells amazing!! I don't think I can wait until supper time to fix myself a big bowl!

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

This is delicious. Storing it in individual freezer bowls, to build up my grab-n-go stash in the freezer. Hubby likes it too.
a

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

Thanks for the recipe! I made this for dinner tonight and it was absolutely delicious. Perfect comfort food on a brisk cold snowy day. Quick question on storage -- is it better to freeze it or refrigerate it? I plan on consuming it within this week.

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

Alrighty! Since I'm from the "...this recipe can be taken just about anywhere you want it" school (except for baking, of course), made a couple of modifications that I think The Guy would approve of.

The recipe for the meatballs is very similar to the one for Lebanese kafta (all purpose meatloaf/meatball/meat whatever) so I took it there by adding about a tablespoon or 2 of chopped parsley (including the stem) and a dash of smoked sweet paprika (normally it would be cinnamon or allspice but I didn't think they would work with the miso).

I also added 5 sliced button mushrooms to oomph up the umaminess (is that a word?) of the soup.

We're looking forward to Tuesday night when we have it as I can tell from tasting it that it the flavor will deepen and mature.

Thanks Maki and Max!

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

This turned out really well with the additions - we had it with a crusty olive bread for dipping and it quickly disappeared!

My guy suggested adding soba noodles which sounds intriguing...

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

Oh yes. I will definitely cook it this week....

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

Nom Nom Nom! =)

Re: Hearty meatball and vegetable soup (that's almost a ...

I just made this today!

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