St. Patrick's Day Cabbage and Meatball Soup

When it comes to figuring out the most popular St. Patrick’s Day dish, all it takes is looking around the meat department from the end of the February through mid-March to get a pretty clear answer. From gourmet markets to discount club stores, the meat departments of most food retailers seem to have corned beef brisket in constant supply this time of year.

St. Patty’s Day Cabbage and Meatball Soup

This traditional fare is well liked for a reason: it salty and delicious. But, is it good for you, especially if you’re a senior with health concerns? No way. High in sodium and nitrates from the salt-curing process used to prepare this fatty cut of meat, corned beef brisket should be a once-a-year treat saved for special occasions like St. Patrick’s Day. The problem is, if you’re only cooking for yourself or another person, the leftovers become temptingly problematic. Corned beef hash for breakfast followed by Reuben sandwiches for lunch might sound like a great idea, but it really isn’t. Cook a corned beef brisket if you can give away the leftovers. Otherwise, think about preparing something else that can capture similar flavors and get into the spirit of the occasion without raising your blood pressure, spiking your cholesterol levels, or otherwise adversely affecting your health.

Healthy Comfort Food!?

The following recipe for cabbage and meatball soup can do just that. Not to be confused with the awful stuff cooked for fad diets, this cabbage soup is hearty but not heavy, and easily falls within the realm of comfort food. Plus, it takes about an hour to cook (compared several hours of simmering a corned beef brisket) and can be refrigerated or frozen into smaller portions for future meals.

The soup itself is fairly simple: the hardest ingredient to find might be the savoy cabbage, but even then, green cabbage can be used in a pinch. A small amount of finely chopped lean Canadian bacon gives the base of the broth a hit of salty cured pork flavor, while the tender meat balls—a mixture of ground pork bound with egg and bread crumbs and lightly flavored with caraway seeds—provide the actual bulk of the protein. As with corned beef, chunks of potato and slices of carrot make an appearance here, rounding out the soup and making it a proper one-bowl meal. Warm, satisfying, and easy to prepare, this meal is one that can be cooked all winter long, not just during leprechaun season.

Cabbage and Meatball Soup

Savoy cabbage is the preferred choice in this soup for its mild flavor and delicate, crinkly leaves. However, if it is unavailable, regular green cabbage can be used in its place. 


savory cabbage

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 yellow onion, finely diced

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 oz. Canadian bacon (about 4 slices), finely diced

2 tsp. minced garlic

3 sprigs thyme

2 bay leaves

2 carrots, thinly sliced

1/2 small savoy cabbage, cored and thinly sliced

12 oz. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 lb. ground pork

1 tsp. caraway seeds

1 egg

1/4 cup fine bread crumbs

Cooking Instructions

carrot.senior-friendly recipes

1. In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook until softened and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the Canadian bacon and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, stirring constantly.

2. Add the thyme, bay leaves, carrots, cabbage, potatoes and chicken broth, raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes and cabbage are just tender, about 10 minutes.

3. While the soup simmers, prepare the meatballs: In a large bowl, stir together the pork, caraway seeds, 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, egg and bread crumbs until combined. Form the mixture into meatballs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and place them on a large plate.

4. Drop the meatballs into the soup, stir gently and simmer until cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.

5. Remove the bay and thyme. Ladle the soup into individual bowls and serve.

Serves 4.