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Zucchini Meatball Soup


Zucchini Meatball Soup

Zucchini Meatball Soup

Photo © Molly Watson
Sure, there's zucchini chopped up in the soup, but I've also worked shredded zucchini into the meatballs, making them wonderfully light. Fans of oregano can feel free to add a sprinkle of it at the end. I also like to serve this soup with strips of fried corn tortilla or simple tortilla chips for people to add themselves.

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: Makes 6 servings


  • 3 poblano chiles
  • 2 medium zucchinis
  • 1 small onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 New Mexico dried red chile
  • 1 lb. ground beef, lamb, or turkey
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup panko or other plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 cups beef, chicken, or vegetable broth
  • Cilantro for garnish
  • Lime wedges for garnish


  1. First things first, you need to prep everything: Roast and peel the chiles (you can use either the Broiler Method or the Gas Stove or Other Live Flame Method), mince them, and set them aside.
  2. Shred one zucchini on the large-holed side of a box grater or similar. Chop the other zucchini.
  3. Shred the onion (use the same grater as for the zucchini) and divide the results into two fairly even piles.
  4. Peel and mince the garlic cloves; divide the minced garlic into 2 small piles.
  5. In a small frying pan over medium high heat, toast the cumin seeds. Let them cool for a minute, grind them in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder, and divide the toasted ground cumin seeds into two piles (see How to Toast Cumin Seeds if needed).
  6. Wipe out the frying pan, put it back over the heat, and toast the red chile, turning it as needed, until it's softened slightly and starting to turn color. Let it cool a minute, remove and discard the stem and seeds, grind it in the spice grinder, and set the ground red chile aside.
  7. Now you can make the meatballs. Break the ground lamb up a bit in a medium or large mixing bowl. Sprinkle it with 1/2 tsp. salt. Add the minced green chile, the shredded zucchini, half of the onion, half of the garlic, and half of the cumin seed. Use your clean hands to combine everything. Add the panko and gently work it into the meat mixture. Crack the egg into a small bowl or measuring cup, beat it lightly, add it to the meat mixture, and work the mixture lightly to combine the egg thoroughly. Wash your hands and leave them damp (it will help keep the meat from sticking to your hands). Gently roll 2 Tbsp. worth of the mixture into a meatball and set it on a baking sheet or platter. Repeat with remaining mixture. Cover the meatballs and chill them while you make the soup.

    Note: You can make the meatballs up to 2 days ahead of time.

  8. Heat the oil over high heat in a large pot. Add the remaining onion and cooking, stirring frequently, until they're soft, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining garlic and stir to combine. Add the remaining ground cumin seed and the ground red chile. Stir to combine until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the broth and just bring to a boil. Taste the broth and add salt to taste, if necessary.
  9. Add the chopped zucchini and the meatball. Bring soup back to a simmer until cooked through and tender, about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the soup: you want it simmering but not boiling.
  10. Serve hot, garnished with fresh cilantro and a squirt of lime juice in each bowl.
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