Everyone in my family has a speciality dish. My late Nana (grandmother) was the undisputed Albondigas champion. She spent most of her life in the kitchen. I can still see her short stature and experienced hands rolling out tortilla dough. She made tortillas from scratch everyday. I remember how her greasy glasses would fall from her nose frequently as she stood over the stove. She brought me into the kitchen when I was young to cook together. I was the prep chef while Nana did the actual cooking. We would talk about owning a restaurant together. We even had the name picked out, “Nanitas.” I didn’t know then how these moments together would shape my love for cooking. My recipe writing and cooking is inspired by a compilation of memories and experiences. Every meal I blog about is attached to a fond memory. It’s been three years this month since we lost my grandmother. I honor her memory by emulating her. My Albondigas will never be as good however, after some trial and error and help from my mother I’m glad to share this recipe. I am proud of this one and I think my Nana would be too.
Ingredients for Albondigas
24 ounces of ground veal, 16 ounces of ground pork, 2 large eggs, 1/2 white onion diced, 4 garlic cloves minced, 3/4 cup of dried cotija cheese, 25 or more mint leaves finely chopped, 2 tablespoons of cilantro finely chopped, 2 tsp of kosher salt, 2 tsp of crushed pepper, 1 tsp of black pepper, and 1 cup of white rice but will only need 1/2 cup for meatball the rest is used in soup.
Ingredients for Soup
1/2 white onion chopped, 2 celery chopped, 1 carrot medium chop, 2 green zucchini large chop, 2 garlic cloves minced, 1 large russet potato peeled and large chop, 1 12.5 ounce can of petite diced tomato in juice, 1 Bay leaf, 7 cups of water, 1/4 tsp of cumin, 1 tsp of mexican oregano and 2 tsp of Kosher Salt. Garnish with rice, avocado, mint and cilantro. A squeeze of lime over avocado and soup is high recommended.
Preparation of Albondigas
In a sauce pan cook long grain white rice. Add 2 cups of water and 1 cup of rice to a boil. Add lid and lower heat to low and cook for 12 minutes. Turn off burner and lift lid when cooked and allow rice to cool.
In a large bowl combine all the listed ingredients for Albondigas. Only add 1/2 cup of rice into meatball mixture. Form meatballs into golf ball sized balls. You should get a minimum of 12 meatballs. That would be 3 large albondigas each.
In a large pot add olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot and place the burner on medium heat. When the oil is hot brown the meatballs in pan and set aside. It’s important to brown in batches. If the meatballs are sticking add more oil.
Once meatballs are browned empty oil and scrape excess browning but don’t place under water to clean. Leave a little bit of the browning marks for flavor. Your pot should look like this.
Add just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan and add onions, celery, and carrots to pot. Soften for 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Add garlic just until fragrant then add can of diced tomato. Sauté until all the liquid is evaporated. Incorporate the meatballs, zucchini, potatoes and water. Add kosher salt, bay leaf, cumin, and oregano. Bring pot to a boil then add lid and reduce burner to low for 20-30 minutes. Once soup is ready taste broth for salt add if desired.
When plating albondigas it’s traditional to add a tablespoon of white rice to the bottom of the bowl then ladle the soup into it.
Enjoy this soup with someone you love. I just know that my Nana is fine as dandy and sweet as candy. She would always say that when we asked how she was. This ones for you Nana from your little Nanita.