Skip to content

Recipe: Cold Weather is No Match For This Cosy Beef Stew Made with Meatballs

You get all the rich, warming meaty flavours of beef stew in half the cooking time

Bookmark article to read later

By Bon Appetit US | March 6, 2024 | Recipes

Hangry waits for no one. Especially not Kendra Vaculin, our associate food editor. In Speedy Does It, her monthly column, she's sharing whoa-worthy dinners you can get on the table like *snaps fingers* that.

Julie & Julia came out the August after I graduated high school, weeks before I left for college. On one of our last weekends together before we moved away from home (and each other), my best friend Mairead and I went to see it. Immediately upon exiting the theater, we decided to make bœuf bourguignon.

The defining characteristic of any beef stew—and certainly of Julia Child’s famed recipe—is that it takes forever, which Julia & Julia made sure to express. In the movie, after food blogger Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams) slides a bubbling, wine-filled pot into her oven, the camera focuses in on her kitchen timer as she beeps the number up higher and higher.

“How long does it take to cook?” the disembodied voice of Powell’s husband, Eric Powell (Chris Messina) asks. And with overwhelmed reverence, Amy breathes the answer: “Two. And a half. Hours.”

We said the same thing after locating my mom’s copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking at my house. “Two? And a half? Hours?” It was already 7 p.m. We hadn’t even gone to the grocery store. My mother gently intervened, suggesting we tackle something else from the book—something a little more achievable for two people who had done no planning whatsoever and were not (despite my current profession) all that adept in the kitchen. We settled on ratatouille and a breadcrumb-topped tomato situation, the photos of which mark some of the earliest instances of my longest enduring hobby: taking pictures of what I eat. We were extremely proud.

This is all to say: If two 18-year-old idiots with literally no responsibilities don’t have time to make beef stew, you absolutely do not either. You have things to do! You, an adult, are busy. For the comfort of a pot of tender beef, creamy potatoes, and a red wine–spiked broth, you are going to need to look elsewhere. And in this case, elsewhere is a beef stew–inspired meatball soup.

For something that takes just one hour from start to finish, this soup has surprising depth, and a coziness factor that rivals your favorite knit blanket. By using hand-torn mushrooms and frozen pearl onions that turn sweet as you simmer, your prep work is minimal. Simple meatballs with earthy thyme stand in for long-braised beef chuck, which means you retain the same delight of breaking large pieces into smaller bites as you eat.

It’s soup with the hardiness of stew for a fraction of the labor, which makes it weeknight-friendly and, in a nice twist of fate, achievable for someone who has done minimal planning. My recommendation is to serve it with crusty bread and the rest of the wine from the bottle, with Julie & Julia on TV—because it’s nice to watch someone else toil away in the kitchen, especially if you don’t have to.

How to Make Hearty Meatball Stew

Don’t have hours to spend simmering a pot of beef stew? This meatball soup recipe packs all those cozy flavors into a weeknight dinner that takes just one hour to make. Sautéing the beef meatballs until they’re browned all over helps develop the fond on the bottom of the pot, which is key to building flavor. Meanwhile, giving the panko breadcrumbs a quick soak once combined with the other meatball ingredients helps them retain moisture, ensuring juicy meatballs every time—even if you choose to use ground turkey or pork instead.

Adding in mushrooms deepens the savory flavor of the broth while a few of our favorite freezer staples—frozen pearl onions and peas—round out this easy recipe. Have some other diced veggies in the freezer you’d like to get rid of? Toss ’em in. This is comfort food; it’s not supposed to stress you out. Deglazing the soup pot with dry red wine plays a big part in this comforting soup’s hearty, stewy flavor. Whatever you like to drink will be fine, but if you’re not sure, reach for a bottle of Cabernet, Zinfandel, or Shiraz. Then grab a loaf of crusty bread for dunking, ladle out a bowl, and relax.

In the mood for a different kind of meatball soup? Check out our recipes for Italian wedding soup; chicken meatballs in either a springy vegetable broth or a miso-rich tomato broth; or minestrone with ditalini and lots of Parmesan cheese.


4 servings

1 large egg

4 garlic cloves, finely grated

1 cup panko

4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 Tbsp. thyme leaves

3 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¾ tsp. Morton kosher salt, divided

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lb. ground beef

1 (packed) cup frozen, thawed pearl onions

10 oz. mushrooms (any kind), torn into bite-size pieces

2 Tbsp. double-concentrated tomato paste

1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

⅔ cup dry red wine

1lb. Yukon Gold potatoes (about 4 medium), peeled, cut into 1" pieces

4 cups low-sodium beef broth

½ cup frozen peas

Country-style bread (for serving; optional)


Step 1

Combine 1 large egg, 4 garlic cloves, finely grated, 1 cup panko, 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, 1 Tbsp. thyme leaves, 1½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1 tsp. Morton kosher salt, and ¼ cup water in a medium bowl; season with freshly ground pepper and mix well. Let sit 5 minutes to hydrate.

Step 2

Add 1 lb. ground beef to bowl and gently mix until combined. Divide and roll meat mixture into ping-pong-size balls (you should have about 20 total).

Step 3

Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high in a Dutch oven or other heavy, large pot. Cook meatballs, shaking pot to turn meatballs every few minutes, until browned all over, 6–8 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to a plate.

Step 4

Cook 1 (packed) cup frozen, thawed pearl onions and ½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt in same pot, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add 10 oz. mushrooms (any kind), torn into bite-size pieces, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add 2 Tbsp. double-concentrated tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until mushrooms are coated and paste is slightly darkened in color, about 1 minute. Evenly sprinkle 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour over and cook, stirring constantly, until mushrooms are coated, about 1 minute.

Step 5

Pour ²⁄₃ cup dry red wine into pot and cook, scraping up browned bits stuck to bottom of pot, until almost completely evaporated, 1–2 minutes. Stir in 1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes (about 4 medium), peeled, cut into 1" pieces, then add meatballs, 4 cups low-sodium beef broth, and remaining 1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton kosher salt; season with pepper. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover pot, and simmer soup, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are fork-tender, 15–20 minutes.

Step 6

Remove lid and stir in ½ cup frozen peas; continue to simmer until liquid is reduced just slightly, about 5 minutes.

Step 7

Ladle soup into bowls and serve with country-style bread if desired.

This recipe originally appears on Bon Appetit.