40 Minute Comfort Meal: Syrian-Style Meatball Soup with Rice and Tomatoes

From Cook What You Have by Christopher Kimball


Start to finish: 40 minutes / Servings: 4

This rustic meatball and rice soup is pure comfort food. The recipe is an adaptation of one from “Aromas of Aleppo” by Poopa Dweck. Made with canned tomatoes, rice and boxed broth, plus a few warming spices, onion and garlic, the soup requires only one refrigerated ingredient: ground beef (ground turkey works well, too). The prep is easy, too. We grate both the onion and garlic so no knifework is required. What’s more, there’s no need to pre-shape or brown the meatballs. As you form them, simply drop them into the simmering broth.


1 pound of ground beef OR turkey


4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 large yellow onion, grated on the large holes of a box grater, divided

5 medium garlic cloves, finely grated

2 teaspoons ground allspice OR ground cumin, divided

 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes OR ground cinnamon OR both


Kosher salt and ground black pepper

28-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 quart low-sodium beef OR chicken broth

1/2 cup long-grain white rice OR basmati rice, rinsed or drained

In a medium bowl, combine the beef, 2 tablespoons oil, 1/4 cup of the grated onion, half of the garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the allspice, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Mix with your hands until well combined; set aside.

In a large pot, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the remaining onion, the remaining garlic, the remaining ½ teaspoon allspice and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is browned and sticks to the pot, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes with juices, the broth and 2 cups water. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits, then stir in the rice. Reduce to medium and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes; the rice will not be fully cooked.

Using dampened hands, pinch off a 1-tablespoon portion of the meat mixture, form it into a ball and drop it into the broth. Shape the remaining meat mixture and add to the pot in the same way; it’s fine if the meatballs are not completely uniform. Simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the soup is slightly thickened and the center of the meatballs reach 160°F, 10 to 15 minutes. Off heat, taste and season with salt and black pepper.

Optional garnish: Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley OR chopped fresh cilantro OR pomegranate molasses OR a combination

Excerpted from COOK WHAT YOU HAVE by Christopher Kimball. Copyright © 2022. Available October 2022 from Voracious Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group.