This Romanian Meatballs Sour Soup is one of the most traditional soups of Romanian cuisine, the glory of the soups and the pride of every Romanian cook.
It is called "ciorba de perisoare" in Romanian.
"Perisoare" means meatballs usually made with minced pork, beef, or both mixed with rice, egg, and spices, then boiled in the soup.
Sometimes, the meatballs are made with ground chicken or even turkey for a lighter version of the soup.
We eat many soups in this family because we live in a cold climate where hearty soups are perfect. I also think that soup is the best way to eat healthier during the cold season.
Why is this soup awesome?
- Nutritious, low-carb soup, perfect for the cold weather. With vegetables, meat, and a little bit of rice, this soup is a complete meal.
- Easy to make. If you have all the ingredients around, the soup takes about an hour to make, and it is easy to put together.
- Leftovers are excellent and make a great lunch or dinner the next day. You can even freeze it, if you want, for a make-ahead meal.
What is "ciorba"?
Romanian cuisine has many soup recipes, "ciorba" being the sour version. To say it better, a "ciorba" is a soup, but not every Romanian soup is ciorba.
These soups are made with vegetables and meat. What makes them different is the addition of vinegar, lemon juice, or sauerkraut juice. Sour cream is also used in abundance to complement the dish.
One of the most traditional herbs to flavor Romanian sour soups is the lovage. I know you can find it in the US, but personally, I never saw it in my area.
I usually bring dried lovage from Romania when I visit or order it online on Amazon (affiliated link) when available.
We make this Romanian Meatballs Sour Soup all year round. However, Christmas and New Year's Eve are perfect opportunities to make this soup, as people believe that sour soups work perfectly for a hangover.
How to make
Step 1- Clean, chop, or dice the vegetables.
The recipe for this soup is an easy one. It all starts with cleaning and chopping the vegetables: onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes. You can use green celery or celery root, whatever you have available or like.
You can also add bell pepper, any color you like. I like the red ones, as they are sweeter and bring color to the soup.
Separate the potatoes from the rest of the vegetables, as we will use them a little bit later. Potatoes cook faster than other root vegetables, so for this reason, they go later in the pot.
Step 2- Saute the vegetables.
In a large soup pot, add the oil and saute the vegetables for a few minutes, enough to develop the flavors.
Step 3- Add broth and tomato paste/sauce.
Add water or chicken broth (I prefer low sodium) and also tomato paste or sauce. This soup is not a fancy one. Therefore, please feel free to use what you have in the pantry.
Bring the soup to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let it simmer for 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are half-cooked. Now you can add the potatoes cut into cubes.
Step 4- Make the meatballs.
While the soup is simmering, we will prepare the meatballs.
In a bowl, mix the ground meat (beef, pork, or a mixture of them), uncooked rice, egg, parsley, salt, and pepper. Combine all the ingredients to obtain a paste.
Note: These meatballs are not made with breadcrumbs, like the Italian ones, for example. We use only plain rice in the mixture.
Step 5- Form the meatballs.
With wet hands, grab a dollop of the ground meat mixture and roll it between your palms to create a meatball.
Keeping your hands wet, drop the meatballs into the soup.
Step 6- Simmer the meatballs.
Allow the soup to simmer for 10-15 minutes, so the rice and the meat get cooked. Taste for salt. Chop some fresh parsley and add it to the soup.
Expert Tip: The meatballs are cooked when they float to the top of the soup. This is how you know that the soup is ready to be served.
Serve hot with fresh slices of bread.
How to make the soup sour
Add 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice to the soup. Taste and add some more as you like.
You are the boss, and you can make it more or less sour based on your preference. Add little by little to make sure you don't sour it too much.
Serve it with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt. It also goes well with spicy, hot peppers like the ones in this recipe.
The soup is good for up to 3 to 4 days if you keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
You can also freeze it for later consumption for up to 6 months. Allow it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat it on the stove or in the microwave.
More recipes to love
Romanian Meatballs Sour Soup (Ciorba De Perisoare)
- 1 6 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
For the meatballs:
- 1 pound ground meat pork, beef or a mixture of both
- ¼ cup uncooked rice long grain
- 1 medium onion diced
- ½ bunch of parsley
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
For the soup:
- 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil or extra virgin olive oil
- 2-3 medium size carrots diced
- 2-3 celery stalks diced or one small celery root diced
- 1 medium onion diced, or 2-3 diced green onions
- 1 medium bell pepper diced
- 3-4 medium potatoes peeled and chopped in cubes
- ½ cup tomato sauce or 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 8 cups water or chicken broth
- ½ bunch parsley chopped or lovage-as it is traditional
- Optional: hot peppers sour cream, or yogurt for serving.
- Clean and chop/dice the vegetables.
- In a soup pot, pour oil and add the chopped vegetables except for the potatoes. The potatoes cook faster than the other vegetables, so they go into the pot later. Saute the vegetables until they develop the flavor, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add water or chicken broth. Add tomato paste or tomato sauce and cubed potatoes. Simmer the soup until the vegetables are half cooked, about 10-15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place the ground meat, rice, egg, chopped onion, parsley, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
- Mix everything to incorporate all the ingredients and make a paste. Set aside.
- With wet hands, grab a dollop of the meat mixture and roll it between your palms to create a meatball. Keeping your hands wet, drop the meatballs into the soup.
- Let the soup simmer for 10-15 minutes so the meatballs get cooked. Taste for salt.
To make the soup sour:
- Add two tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice. Taste and add some more as you prefer.
- Chop the parsley and sprinkle it over the soup.
- Serve with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt and hot peppers.