Romanian Sour Meatball Soup - Ciorba de Perisoare

Meatball in broth on a silver spoon
Bodo Schieren / Getty Images
Prep: 50 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Total: 90 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
349 Calories
17g Fat
15g Carbs
33g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 349
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 17g 21%
Saturated Fat 7g 33%
Cholesterol 100mg 33%
Sodium 297mg 13%
Total Carbohydrate 15g 6%
Dietary Fiber 2g 9%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 33g
Vitamin C 8mg 42%
Calcium 57mg 4%
Iron 4mg 22%
Potassium 680mg 14%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Ciorbă is a distinctive type of Romanian soup that is soured with vinegar, sauerkraut juice or another sour agent. Sour meatball soup is among the most traditional of the sour soups, but cabbage ciorbă is also popular, and ciorbă de burtă (tripe soup) is considered the ultimate hangover food. Traditional versions use lovage, an herb infrequently found in the stores in North America, but which can be obtained at specialty shops or online. If you can't find it, celery leaves or parsley will do.


For the Meatballs:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef

  • 2 slices bread

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped 

  • 2 tablespoons uncooked rice

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • Salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Soup:

  • 1 small onion, finely sliced

  • 1 bunch lovage leaves, finely chopped

  • 1 parsley root, peeled 

  • 1 parsnip, peeled 

  • 4 carrots, peeled 

  • 1 pound beef with bones

  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste

  • Salt, to taste

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons vinegar, or to taste

  • Sour cream, for optional garnish

  • Hot pepper, to taste, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add sliced onion, lovage, parsley root, parsnip and carrots. Add beef with bone. Bring back to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface, reduce heat and simmer partially covered.

  2. Meanwhile, make the meatballs by first soaking the bread in water or milk and then squeezing it dry. Mash the soaked bread in a large bowl. Add the ground meat, finely chopped onion, rice, water and salt and pepper. Wet hands slightly and make small meatballs. Set aside.

  3. When the vegetables in the saucepan become tender, return it to a boil and carefully drop in the meatballs. Reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes. When the soup is almost done and the meatballs come to the surface, add the tomato paste and stir well.

  4. Add the tomato paste and stir. Add the lovage and season with salt and vinegar. If desired, serve with a dollop of sour cream and a hot pepper on the side.

Recipe Variations

  • Use ground pork in the meatballs or a combination of pork and beef.
  • Switch from beef to veal in the soup.
  • Lovage can be replaced with celery or parsley leaves.