Basic Meat & Veg Soup You Can Riff On

It’s raining here today – it doesn’t actually NEVER rain in Southern California… 😉 – so SOUP! This is a super basic recipe for tasty soup that you can riff on in any number of ways, but at minimum, you want:

– some kind of allium (stuff from the onion/garlic family) for savory flavor,

– a little bit of tomato product (whether that be fresh, canned, paste, or even ketchup) to add depth and complexity to the flavor, and if you don’t put too much, it doesn’t really taste all that tangy or tomato-ey if you don’t like that kind of thing

– some meat cut into small pieces (for me, preferably with some fat on them) for protein and richness, and in which case, you don’t need to use stock for your liquid because that flavor gets coaxed out of the meat and fat

And then whatever other veg you choose. I like carrots as a default because they add heft and sweetness. Potatoes are a great way to add starch and body.

Celery or bell pepper are good to compound the savory, but they are also pretty personal choices. A lot of people really dislike one or both because they have such distinct flavors.

8 cups of liquid with this amount of solids makes for a pretty soupy soup, but then it gives you room to add more veg, meat, or other starches like rice or pasta without making it too thick. Remember that if you add rice or pasta, they take time to cook and both expand exponentially, so you’ll want to be judicious with the amounts. See steps for more tips. 🙂


  1. 1.5 pounds meat (chicken, pork, or beef, preferably with some fat on it) cut into 1-inch pieces. I used pork today
  2. 8 cups water
  3. 1 large onion, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  4. 5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick disks
  5. 1/2-1 cup canned tomatoes (crushed, diced, sauced, pureed are all fine)
  6. 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon salt
  7. 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  8. Other veg, spices, and starches as you like. See last step for some variations


  1. In a large pot, add meat and water, turn on heat to medium high and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes. Meat takes longer to cook to tenderness than veg does, so you want to give it a head start.

    When the meat has come to a boil for two or three minutes, you might like to skim the scum (just loose proteins and other particulate stuff from the meat rising to the surface). You don’t have to, but it looks better.

  2. Turn the heat down to medium low and add carrots and onions.

  3. Then add tomatoes and salt, give it a few gentle stirs, cover, and simmer for another 15 minutes.

    This is a good step to add your optional herbs and spices. (See last step for suggestions.)

  4. Add potatoes, cover, and simmer another 20 minutes or so.

    If you want to add a maybe 3/4 cups of white rice or a cup of pasta for more starch and body, this would be a good time to add it. You’ll probably also want to add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon more salt.

  5. Looks super basic, but it’s pretty tasty! I like to garnish with a little green onion and fresh herbs


    For something Minestrone-ish, you could add another cup of tomatoes, 1 Tablespoon of Italian herbs, a can of beans, and a little pasta.

    For Tortilla soup-ish flavor, you could add 2 teaspoons cumin, 1 Tablespoon oregano, 1 bay leaf, half a bell pepper chopped, some chopped cilantro, and a few good squeezes of fresh lime.


    If you like kale, you can just throw a bag of it in Step 2 of the process (kale takes a while to get tender). Add a package of Italian sausage either cut or pulled into bite sized pieces, a cup of cream, and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder in Step 3 and it’ll remind you of Zuppa Toscana.

    Enjoy! 🙂

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