Spanish-Style Meatball Soup with Saffron

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Spanish meatball soup boasts a deeply flavorful sunset-colored broth and tender meatballs, but finding the right balance of ingredients is pivotal to its success. We started with the meatballs, opting for a combination of ground pork and beef. A paste made from bread and milk known as a panade helped ensure that the lean meat stayed moist and tender. For extra flavor and texture, we added grated Manchego, a sharp Spanish sheep’s-milk cheese, shallot, parsley, and olive oil. We rolled spoon-size ½-inch balls and placed them in the refrigerator to firm up. For a full-flavored broth, we started with a traditional Spanish base, or sofrito , of onion, bell pepper, and garlic, then added enough saffron threads for a potent but not overwhelming impact. Paprika contributed some sweetness to the broth while also reinforcing its orange hue, and a bit of red pepper flakes delivered just enough heat. We deglazed the pot with white wine for brightness, poured in chicken broth, and then carefully dropped in the chilled meatballs. Finally, we added body to the soup with a traditional picada, a simple mixture of ground almonds, bread crumbs, and olive oil. We pulsed the ingredients, then gently toasted the mixture in the oven to bring out its nutty flavor. A sprinkling of minced parsley made for a bright, fresh finish. Parmesan or Asiago cheese can be substituted for the Manchego.


2 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into quarters

⅓  cup whole milk

8 ounces ground pork

1 ounce Manchego cheese, grated (½ cup)

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1 shallot, minced

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

8 ounces 80 percent lean ground beef


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, chopped fine

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ¾-inch pieces

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled

⅛  teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup dry white wine

8 cups chicken broth

1 recipe Picada

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Salt and pepper

  1. FOR THE MEATBALLS Using fork, mash bread and milk together into paste in large bowl. Stir in ground pork, Manchego, parsley, shallot, oil, salt, and pepper until combined. Add ground beef and knead with your hands until combined. Pinch off and roll 2-teaspoon-size pieces of mixture into balls and arrange in rimmed baking sheet (you should have 30 to 35 meatballs). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  2. FOR THE SOUP Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and bell pepper and cook until softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, paprika, saffron, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in wine, scraping up any browned bits, and cook until almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute.
  3. Stir in broth and bring to simmer. Gently add meatballs and simmer until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Off heat, stir in picada and parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.


Soups & Stews