Shchi (Russian Cabbage Soup) With Meatballs

Shchi Russian Cabbage Soup (500x328) (2)One day, a long time ago, when we still lived in Belarus, my Mom was trying to cook up a pot of soup very quickly and stumbled upon a genius idea.

In Belarus, twenty years ago, there was no such thing as the luxury of store bought chicken broth. If you wanted to make soup, you made it from scratch, broth and all. Most soups started with cooking a large pot of bones and meat for a long time to get a rich and flavorful broth, and then you added all the other components to it. With five little kiddos under the age of six, you can imagine that my Mom was a very busy woman. She was a superwoman and kept up with housekeeping, cooking and taking care of us, and that’s probably why she was such a pro at coming up with awesome shortcuts.

Russian Shchi is a classic cabbage soup, that any Slavic housewife masters if she’s worth her salt. It’s full of nutrients and is very soothing and filling, especially appreciated during the long, cold winter months. Instead of cooking this soup for hours, she made Shchi with meatballs, adding meatiness and protein to the soup in a very quick and convenient way.

This soup is chock full of vegetables, and all those aromatics infuse the Shchi with so much depth of flavor, but is still so light and extremely healthy. I like using chicken meatballs, but you can certainly make meatballs from any other ground meat. In half an hour, you’ve got yourself a pot of soup brimming with healthiness, lots of bright colors and cute shapes. Let’s not forget how amazingly delicious it is, which is, after all, most important of all. 

Ingredients:

10 cups water

3 potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)

1/2 cabbage head, shredded

1/2 – 1 Tablespoon butter

1 large onion, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 celery stalks, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 medium bell pepper, or 1/2 of a large bell pepper, julienne

Meatballs:

1 lb ground chicken

2 slices Italian bread

1/3-1/2 cup milk

2 Tablespoons sour cream

1/2 small onion, grated

1 garlic clove, grated

3/4 teaspoon salt, ground black pepper

fresh herbs, minced (dill, parsley, green onions)

sour cream (to serve with the soup, optional)

Pour the water into a large pot and bring it to a boil. Add the potatoes and cabbage to the boiling water. Season with salt and pepper. File0436 (500x334)

File0437 (500x334)Meanwhile, in a skillet, melt the butter and add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until vegetables are tender. File0443 (500x334)Add the tomatoes and pepper. Season with salt and pepper again and cook for another 3 minutes. File0444 (500x334)

File0448 (500x334)Add the vegetables to the soup. Cook the soup at a simmer for about 20 minutes total, until the potatoes are tender. File0450 (500x334)

File0452 (500x334)Make the meatballs while the soup is cooking. Toast the bread and pour milk over it. Soak for about 2 minutes and then puree in the food processor. If you’re not using Italian bread but regular white supermarket sandwich bread, use only one slice, not two. Italian bread is very light, so you will need 2 slices, but the sandwich bread tends to be dense and gummy, if you use 2 slices it will be too much.  File0453 (500x334)Mix all the ingredients together. The meatball mixture will be very soft. That’s normal and will make the meatballs super juicy and tender. File0455 (500x334)

File0457 (500x334)Form small meatballs using damp hands and drop them into the simmering soup. File0458 (500x334)Cook for another 5-7 minutes, until the meatballs have cooked through. File0462 (500x334)Take the soup off the heat and garnish with fresh herbs, such as dill, parsley and green onions. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.Shchi With Meatballs (500x334)

Shchi Russian Cabbage Soup (500x328) (2)

Fresh Shchi With Meatballs
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Soups
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 10 cups water
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 2½ cups)
  • ½ cabbage head, shredded
  • ½ - 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium bell pepper, or ½ of a large bell pepper, julienne
Meatballs:
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 2 slices Italian bread
  • ⅓-1/2 cup milk
  • 2 Tablespoons sour cream
  • ½ small onion, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • ¾ teaspoon salt, ground black pepper
  • fresh herbs, minced (dill, parsley, green onions)
  • sour cream (to serve with the soup, optional)
Instructions
  1. Pour the water into a large pot and bring it to a boil.
  2. Add the potatoes and cabbage to the boiling water. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Meanwhile, in a skillet, melt the butter and add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
  4. Add the tomatoes and pepper. Season with salt and pepper again and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the vegetables to the soup.
  5. Cook the soup at a simmer for about 20 minutes total, until the potatoes are tender.
  6. Make the meatballs while the soup is cooking.
  7. Toast the bread and pour milk over it. Soak for about 2 minutes and then puree in the food processor. If you're not using Italian bread but regular white supermarket sandwich bread, use only one slice, not two. Italian bread is very light, so you will need 2 slices, but the sandwich bread tends to be dense and gummy, if you use 2 slices it will be too much.
  8. Mix all the ingredients together. The meatball mixture will be very soft. That's normal and will make the meatballs super juicy and tender.
  9. Form small meatballs using damp hands and drop them into the simmering soup.
  10. Cook for another 5-7 minutes, until the meatballs have cooked through.
  11. Take the soup off the heat and garnish with fresh herbs, such as dill, parsley and green onions. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

 
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Comments

  1. Anna @ Happy Medley says

    Olga this is a great idea! My mom always added 1/2 sauerkraut and 1/2 fresh cabbage… It gives it a little bit of tang and more ! flavor

    happymedley.blogspot.com

  2. Natalie says

    Yum – this looks so good! Since my boys LOVE soup, I am giving this a try tomorrow! Every one of your recipes that I have tried never failed me :) So I am sure this one will be a hit too! Thanks for sharing :) Hope you are enjoying time with your new family addition – he is adorable! God bless you guys!

  3. Natalya Wilson says

    Made the shchi few days ago, but I had some small ribs, so I made with ribs…. What a hit!!! Everyone loved it, even kids!!!! Mike told me that I need to do more of Russians soups and other Russian meals… Thank you for the recipes!!!

  4. yana says

    Hi Olga!! I just made this soup, followed the recipie exactly and our family had it for lunch…YUMMY..it is sooo good..thank you so much for your recipies!!

  5. Liza says

    This is almost exactly how I make shchi! The only difference is the garlic and celery, because my husband doesn’t like celery very much and cannot eat garlic. I think one of the best things about shchi is its versatility! You can add and take away many things (I often add mushrooms!) and it’ll be amazing if you make sure to salt and pepper generously throughout the process. I also love the clean taste of the broth! Such a comfort food for me! :) Thank you for sharing!

  6. Liza says

    Oops I pushed reply a little too soon… anyway, I made it this evening with your meatballs (I’ve never made it with chicken meatballs) and it was amazing! :) I’ll definitely make it with the chicken meatballs again and again!

    • says

      I agree with you, Liza, that Shchi is so versatile and easy to adjust to your flavor preference. I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed the meatballs made with chicken. Chicken is my favorite meat to use for meatballs, especially for soup. Thanks for taking the time to write.

  7. Olga I says

    It’s very delicious! My family absolutely loves it! I have to retire my recipe. Thank you, Olga. It’s so chilly in Tampa Bay Area, so it was perfect comfort food for dinner.

    • says

      It IS cold, isn’t it, Olga? I’m glad to meet a fellow Floridian. We had to bundle up to go out this evening. Warm, comforting soup really hits the spot on days like this.

  8. Shelly says

    Olga, I love your recipes, especially the Russian ones. Reminds me of my childhood.
    We don’t mix milk and meat. Is there any way to make the meatballs recipe without milk? And perhaps without the bread? Perhaps breadcrumbs? Milk alternative? Your suggestions would be most appreciated.

    • says

      Hi Shelly, you can use water to soak the breadcrumbs. I’m afraid the meatballs won’t be as tender without the breadcrumbs.

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