This Avgolemono Soup Is Lemony, Velvety and Bright
Of all the ways to enjoy a meatball, you could say they’re at their most comforting bobbing in broth.
Not that there’s anything wrong with spaghetti and red sauce, miso and Ritz crackers, or any of the other 45 million or so meatball variations that exist.
It’s just that spooning up a morsel of meatballs — whether they’re as tiny as marbles or as big as a baseball — in steaming soup feels immensely soothing in a tidy, calm kind of way, the very opposite of a chaotic and joyfully messy sub.
This lemony Greek meatball soup, a riff on youvarlakia avgolemono, looks especially quiet in the pot. Yet every spoonful vibrates with flavor: the brightness of citrus and dill, the depth of the chicken stock, the velvety richness of egg yolk.
In the United States, we tend to think of avgolemono as a soup made with chunks of chicken and grains of rice. But, in Greece, adding meatballs to the broth is just as traditional. This recipe substitutes ground chicken for the usual beef, making the whole thing a bit lighter. Ground turkey works just as well.
As whenever you make meatballs, using a gentle touch keeps them from turning rubbery. This is because the more you knead and press ground meat, the more it adheres to itself. While forceful kneading is essential for some recipes (like kebabs, where you want the meat to cling to its skewer so it doesn’t fall into the fire), it’s the enemy of fluffy, soft meatballs that float nicely in broth.
Here’s another tip: Chill the meatballs thoroughly before adding them to the simmering liquid to help keep them from falling apart. You can even make the meatballs a few days ahead, storing them in the refrigerator until you’re ready for soup.
But don’t try to make the avgolemono mixture much in advance. The delicate emulsion of eggs and lemon can separate as the mixture sits. It’s best whisked together, then poured directly into the broth just before serving. This egg emulsion also means that leftovers do not freeze well.
If you’re looking to add vegetables to the pot, a handful of baby spinach (or other tender greens) is excellent stirred in about five minutes before the avgolemono mixture is added. This also gives the greens a chance to soften, without any risk of curdling. Because while versatile meatballs can withstand the heat, taking care with your avgolemono is what guarantees the silkiest, most elegant broth.