Steaming Bowl of Romanian Meatball Soup With Vegetables and Herbs, Served on a Rustic Table.

Romanian Meatball Soup (Ciorba de perisoare)


The Taste of Romanian Meatball Soup

Romanian Meatball Soup, also known as Ciorbă de Perişoare, is a traditional dish that holds a special place in the heart of Romanian cuisine.

Paying homage to the abundant culinary traditions of Romania, this distinctive dish features robust meatballs, usually a blend of pork and beef. Its tangy broth, created by incorporating vinegar or fermented wheat bran, referred to as bors, adds a unique twist. The complexity of the recipe is further enhanced with an assortment of vegetables and the unique taste of lovage, an herb that is a cornerstone of Romanian cuisine

While often mistaken for a regular plain soup, the Romanian meatball soup comes with a surprise – borsch (not to be mistaken with borscht, which is a final cooked meal). Now what exactly is this borsch I mentioned? It’s a sour liquid, made mostly from bran and lovage that sours a meal, therefore transforming it from a bland soup to borscht (the final meal).

The Borsch Factor

A Glass of Borsch On a Table With Some Lovage Near It

Now, making borsch at home is kind of like wrestling a bear – it’s doable, but not everyone’s up for it. It’s a bit like preserving pickles for the winter or starting a sourdough culture from scratch. But hey, if you’re not feeling like a culinary superhero today, no problemo! Just swing by any Eastern European store (Romanian, Bulgarian, Polish, Russian, you name it) and grab a bottle of borsch. Easy peasy!

But hold up! Don’t confuse Romanian borsch with Ukrainian borsch. That’s like mistaking a cat for a dog because they both have four legs. Ukrainian borsch is all about beets and rocks a flashy red color, while Romanian borsch is more of a quiet, sophisticated type. You’ll want to look for versions that have bran, corn flour, sour cherry tree branches, and lovage.

Sometimes, you might even spot dry borsch hanging out on grocery store shelves, especially in Europe. It’s a pretty decent stand-in. But if all else fails, a squeeze of lemon juice will save the day. It’s like the superhero of the culinary world! And you know what’s cool? There are as many ways to make this meatball soup as there are Dracula jokes in Transylvania. Some folks like to use pickle juice or lemon juice, and some even go for lemon salt.

Ciorbă de Perişoare isn’t just a soup. It’s a party in a bowl, a high-five to Romanian culinary traditions, a tribute to our rich cultural heritage, and a belly-warming journey into the soul of Romanian cuisine.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Ingredients for the Base Soup

Ingredients Needed to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.
  • Water – 6 liters or 1.5 gallons
  • Bones – 300 grams or around 17.5 ounces
  • Onions – 2 onions, which weigh around 150 grams or 5 ounces
  • Bell Pepper – 1 bell pepper, which weighs 70 grams or 2.5 ounces
  • Celery Root – Half of the celery root, which weighs 90 grams or 3 ounces
  • Parsnip – 1 parsnip, that weighs 100 grams or 3.5 ounces
  • Carrots – 2 carrots, that weigh 120 grams or 4 ounces
  • Tomato Juice – 250 ml or 2 cups
  • Borsch / Lemon Juice – 250 ml or 1 cup
  • Pre-soaked Rice – 2 tablespoons
  • Lovage – 1 link
  • Bay Leaves – A few
  • Salt – 2 tablespoons

Ingredients for the Meatballs

Ingredients Needed to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.
  • Trimmed Pork Meat – 500 grams or 17.6 ounces
  • Rice – 70 grams or 2.4 ounces
  • Dill – 1 link. If you are using dried dill, 2 teaspoons should be enough
  • Tomato Paste – 1 tablespoon
  • Thyme – Few fresh leaves or 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon
  • Pepper – ½ teaspoon
  • Eggs – 2
  • Onion – 1

How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup

Creating a pot of Romanian Meatball Soup, or as the locals call it, Ciorbă de Perişoare is very easy. Follow these step-by-step instructions:

1. Boiling the Bones

Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.

Put the bones to boil in 6 liters of water with 2 tablespoons of salt. Let the bones boil alone in the salted water for 40 minutes since they started to make the first boiling bubble. Remove any foam and impurities with a slotted spoon or a strainer.

2. Preparing the Vegetables

Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.

Prepare the vegetables. Divide them into two equal parts. On that note take one part, which contains: 1 onion, 1 carrot, half of the celery root required, 1 parsnip, and half of bell pepper, and cut it into large cubes. The other half must be finely chopped.

3. Adding the Big Chunks of Vegetables to the Soup

Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.

After 40 minutes, add the big chunks of vegetables and let them boil together with the bones for another 30 minutes.

4. Preparing the Meatballs

Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.

Prepare the meatballs. Into a large bowl add the trimmed meat, the rice, 1 tsp of salt, half a teaspoon of pepper, the finely chopped onion, thyme, one whole egg, one egg yolk, dill, one tablespoon of tomato paste, and mix everything very well into a paste.

Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.

With your hands start shaping the meatballs.

5. Draining the Soup

Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.

After a total of 1 hour and 10 minutes of boiling time, drain the soup and remove the bones and the boiled vegetables.

6. Cooking the Meatballs and Finely Chopped Vegetables

Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.

Put the clear soup back to boil and complete with another liter of water to compensate for the water that evaporated.

Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.

Add the finely chopped vegetables and let them cook for 10 minutes before adding the meatballs.

Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.

Put in the meatballs and let them boil with the finely chopped vegetables for another 10 minutes on low heat to prevent any shattering.

Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.

After 10 minutes you can add the rice and the tomato juice and let the whole soup boil for another 30 minutes.

7. Adding the Borsch

Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.

After 30 minutes add borsch into the soup and let it boil all together for another 5 minutes. In case you are using the dry version of borsch the procedure remains the same. Add 1 teaspoon of powdered borsch and let it boil for 5 minutes with the rest of the ingredients. In case you are using other souring agents skip to step no 9.

8. Finishing Touches with Lovage

Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.

Add up the finely chopped lovage and close off the stove. Let the soup rest with the lid on for the next 15 minutes before serving.

9. Souring the Soup with Lemon

Now if you are not using any type of borsch at all and you go with lemon juice or lemon salt, you will sour the meatball soup after the stove is closed and the soup rested for 15 minutes.

Bowl of Ciorbă de Perişoare, Traditional Romanian Meatball Soup, Garnished With Fresh Herbs.

Romanian Meatball Soup

Yield: 10
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Additional Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 35 minutes

Romanian Meatball Soup, or as the locals call it, Ciorbă de Perişoare, is the superhero of Romanian cuisine. This soup is like a party in a bowl, with meatballs (usually a dynamic duo of pork and beef) and a bunch of root veggies like carrots, celery, and parsnips all grooving together. The secret weapon? A sour kick from lovage herb and borsh that'll make your taste buds do a double-take. Whether you're huddling with a bowl on a day colder than a polar bear's toenails, or kicking off a feast fit for a king, Romanian Meatball Soup is your golden ticket to a culinary adventure in Romania. So, grab a spoon and dive in!

Ingredients

Ingredients for the base soup

  • 6 liters or 1 gallon and a half of water
  • 300 grams or around 17,5 ounces of bones
  • 2 onions which weigh around 150 grams or 5 ounces
  • 1 bell pepper which weighs 70 grams or 2,5 ounces
  • Half of the celery root which weighs 90 grams or 3 ounces
  • 1 parsnip that weighs 100 grams or 3,5 ounces
  • 2 carrots that weigh 120 grams or 4 ounces
  • 250 ml or 2 cups of tomato juice
  • 250 ml or 1 cup of borsch / or the juice from a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of pre-soaked rice
  • 1 link of lovage
  • Few bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons of salt

Ingredients for the meatballs

  • 500 grams of trimmed pork meat
  • 1 link of dill. If you are using dried dill, 2 teaspoons should be enough
  • few fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • ½ tsp of pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 onion

Instructions

  1. Put the bones to boil in 6 liters of water with 2 tablespoons of salt. Let the bones boil alone in the salted water for 40 minutes since they started to make the first boiling bubble. Remove any foam and impurities with a slotted spoon or a strainer.Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.
  2. Prepare the vegetables. Divide them into two equal parts. On that note take one part, which contains: 1 onion, 1 carrot, half of the celery root required, 1 parsnip, and half of bell pepper, and cut it into large cubes. The other half must be finely chopped.Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.
  3. After 40 minutes, add the big chunks of vegetables and let them boil together with the bones for another 30 minutes.Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.
  4. Prepare the meatballs. Into a large bowl add the trimmed meat, the rice, 1 tsp of salt, half a teaspoon of pepper, the finely chopped onion, thyme, one whole egg, one egg yolk, dill, one tablespoon of tomato paste, and mix everything very well into a paste.Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.With your hands start shaping the meatballs.Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.
  5. After a total of 1 hour and 10 minutes of boiling time, drain the soup and remove the bones and the boiled vegetables.Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.
  6. Put the clear soup back to boil and complete with another liter of water to compensate for the water that evaporated.Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.Add the finely chopped vegetables and let them cook for 10 minutes before adding the meatballs.Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.Put in the meatballs and let them boil with the finely chopped vegetables for another 10 minutes on low heat to prevent any shattering.Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.After 10 minutes you can add the rice and the tomato juice and let the whole soup boil for another 30 minutes.Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.
  7. After 30 minutes add borsch into the soup and let it boil all together for another 5 minutes. In case you are using the dry version of borsch the procedure remains the same. Add 1 teaspoon of powdered borsch and let it boil for 5 minutes with the rest of the ingredients. In case you are using other souring agents skip to step no 9.Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.
  8. Add up the finely chopped lovage and close off the stove. Let the soup rest with the lid on for the next 15 minutes before serving.Process Shots Showing How to Make Romanian Meatball Soup.
  9. Now if you are not using any type of borsch at all and you go with lemon juice or lemon salt, you will sour the meatball soup after the stove is closed and the soup rested for 15 minutes.

Notes

  • pre-soak the rice at least 1 hour before you start the recipe
  • pre-boil the rice for 10 minutes and let it cool off to a point you can safely touch it before mixing it with the meat
  • if you want to avoid waste, you can blend the boiled vegetables and add them to the soup, it will enrich its flavor but also texture, so beware of that aspect upon refrigeration the broth might take a jelly-like aspect because of the high amount of vegetables contained upon heating, it will liquefy again
  • can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days
  • pre-boil the borsch for 3 minutes before adding it to the soup; this is a precautionary step in case the borsch is old and it has a weird end flavor 
  • what gives a unique flavor to this one-of-a-kind soup are these 2 key ingredients: lovage and borsch
  • this soup is typically served hot and garnished with lots of lovage and a dollop of sour cream 
  • it’s served as a main course often accompanied by fresh bread and spicy peppers
  • some recipes call for a mixture of different types of meat, such as chicken and turkey, or lamb and beef, to give the soup a new and different twist
  • try to avoid meat that is already ground; it’s usually made from scraps that are not very tasty 
  • the traditional and authentic recipe calls for fatty pork meat; the belly region should be perfect, and the leg area may also work but you should combine it with a little bit of fat, otherwise, the meatballs will be very hard and dense 
  • avoid storing the meatballs, when shaping them, on a wood cupboard they will stick to the surface
  • nutritional values do not include fresh bread

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 600g
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 200Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 80mgSodium: 1400mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 3gSugar: 5gProtein: 20g

The nutritional information provided is approximate and for reference purposes only. Actual values may vary due to factors such as product brands, preparation methods, and ingredient substitutions. The provided values may not include all nutrients and should not be relied upon as the sole source of nutritional information. Always read product labels and consider individual factors when making dietary choices. We are not responsible for any inaccuracies or adverse effects resulting from the use of this information.

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Variations of the Soup

In the realm of Romanian cuisine, Ciorbă de Perişoare, or meatball soup is a beloved classic. However, like any traditional dish, there are regional variations within Romania that add a unique twist to the soup. For instance, some regions might use different types of mixtures of meat for the meatballs, while others might add pickle juice instead of bors. The use of lovage, dill, and bors, is what’s giving the soup its characteristic taste with a sour accent.

Customizing the soup to personal taste is also quite common. You can experiment with the type of meatballs used, the blend of vegetables, or even the amount of souring agent (like vinegar or lemon juice).

Pairings and Serving Suggestions

Sour Cream in a Jar

When it comes to serving Ciorbă de Perişoare, the main ideas for servings are:

  • Sour Cream – 50 grams or 2 tablespoons per bowl of soup. The creaminess of the sour cream beautifully balances the tanginess of the soup, enhancing its overall flavor.
  • Fresh Bread – As needed. Fresh bread is a staple serving suggestion. It’s perfect combo and adds a comforting, hearty element to the meal.
  • Spicy Peppers – To taste. For those who enjoy a bit of heat, spicy peppers can be added to the soup to elevate its flavor profile.

As for wine and beverage pairings, a light white wine or a Romanian Țuică (plum brandy) can complement the soup’s hearty and sour flavors. Remember, the best pairing is one that you enjoy, so feel free to experiment!

FAQs

Let’s answer some common questions about Ciorbă de Perişoare:

What is the unique herb used in the soup?

The unique herb is lovage. It has a strong flavor that gives the soup its distinctive taste.

Can I substitute the meatballs with another type of meat?

Absolutely! While pork and beef meatballs are traditional, you can use chicken, turkey, or even a plant-based alternative. The key is to maintain the balance of flavors in the soup.

What can I use if I can’t find lovage?

If lovage isn’t readily available in your local grocery store, don’t worry! You can use a combination of celery leaves and parsley as a stand-in. While this mix won’t perfectly mimic the distinct taste of lovage, it will still lend a lovely herby flavor to your Ciorbă de Perişoare. Remember, the beauty of cooking lies in adaptation and creativity, so feel free to make this soup your own!

Author

  • Diana

    Hey! I’m Diana. a 30-year-old culinary enthusiast with a passion for creating mouthwatering dishes that tantalize your taste buds. With over 15 years of cooking experience under my apron, I’ve spent countless hours in the kitchen honing my skills, experimenting with flavors, and discovering the most delectable recipes.

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