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Ratatouille Soup Recipe with Mini-Meatballs (+Video)

This tasty Ratatouille Soup with Meatballs recipe is made with mini meatballs combined with eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and basil. Throw it together in a few minutes. It’s an easy way to make friends with eggplant.

Updated January 4, 2020

cooked soup with a wooden spoon in it

This is the kind of soup you want when you’ve been eating too much rich or junky food. The veggies are comforting and the meatballs satisfy. Savory broth warms you from the inside out.

meatball ratatouille soup with parmesan and basil in background

Here’s a quick quiz to test your knowledge about the term “ratatouille.” There may be more than one answer.

What is “ratatouille?”

a.  a movie
b.  cold tomato-based soup or salad
c.  an excuse to buy eggplant
d.  the inspiration for one of my favorite “fat day” soups
e.  what rats say to each other after they sneeze
f.  hard to spell

Answer?  All except e.  And “e” could be true, but I’m unable to verify my theory.

You may know “Ratatouille” as a movie, cold soup, or a salad. It usually consists of a mixture of sliced eggplant (aka aubergine), zucchini, garlic, and tomatoes and is most often served at room temperature or chilled.

Let me introduce you to aubergine or eggplant.

If the only way you eat eggplant is breaded and covered with cheese, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Eggplant doesn’t have to be a lot of trouble to be good. It can be nutritious AND delicious!

Is eggplant a fruit or a vegetable?

Did you know eggplant is technically a fruit?

So much for being proud of myself that I was eating more vegetables.

However, eggplant is usually prepared and served as a vegetable. Guess that’s why eggplant has an identity crisis.

Why is it called “eggplant”?

According to Wonderopolis, “Way back in the 1700s, early European versions of eggplant were smaller and yellow or white. They looked like goose or chicken eggs, which led to the name “eggplant.”

You can buy these smaller eggplants in international and specialty grocery stores. I use the aubergine-colored variety in this recipe. Aubergine is another name for the dark purple color as well as the eggplant itself.

Is it OK to eat the skin and seeds of eggplant?

As eggplants age and get bigger, the skin gets tougher and more bitter. If you are buying a small eggplant, leave the tender skin on. It adds texture to the soup. Otherwise, peel it.

raw eggplant cut in half
This eggplant is perfect. The seeds are small and the flesh is creamy white.

According to Rebecca Bragg from Livestrong.com, “The seeds of a fresh eggplant should be soft and barely visible and if they are, there’s no need to remove them. If seeds are brown, scoop them out with a spoon.”

I never remove the seeds since this is soup. Nobody will notice.

Recipe Tip:

If you are cooking for picky eaters, peel the eggplant and cut in small cubes. They will be unrecognizable amongst the other ingredients. (This is not guaranteed to work, but worth a try.)

Is it necessary to salt eggplant before cooking it?

Since the eggplant in this recipe cooks in broth (not fried), there is no reason to salt and let the eggplant sit ahead of time.

Ingredients and Substitutions:

Meatballs:

  • If you find making meatballs tedious or time-consuming, brown the ground meat without shaping it into balls.
  • If you make the meatballs yourself, they will hold together best if the meat was not frozen beforehand. Save time and buy pre-cooked mini meatballs from the freezer section at the supermarket.
  • The third option would be to leave out the meat and go vegetarian. Mushrooms would be a good substitution.

Onions:

  • Use frozen chopped onions to save time.
  • Yellow or white onions are the best variety for this recipe.

Green Bell Peppers:

  • Substitute red, yellow, or orange peppers if you prefer.
  • Leave the peppers out if you like, but it is a traditional ingredient of ratatouille.

Zucchini:

  • No need to peel the zucchini. The skin adds color.
  • Substitute yellow squash for the zucchini if you must.
  • Don’t overcook the soup. The zucchini should still have some bright green color.

Eggplant:

fresh chopped eggplant
  • Substitute mushrooms for the eggplant if you like. I’ve been forced to do this when I let the eggplant sit in my refrigerator for too long. The flesh turns brown and gets soft spots as it ages.

Tomatoes:

I’m fond of the Red Gold brand of diced tomatoes. But whatever you have on hand will work. Some people would rather use whole canned tomatoes. Break them up by squeezing with your hands or give them a quick chop.

Beef Broth:

Use canned beef broth or beef bouillon cubes reconstituted with hot water. If you’re the kind who makes your own broth, use it and please invite me to your house.

Mushroom & Company Umami Seasoning:

mushroom and company umami seasoning blend from Trader Joes

I recently discovered this seasoning at Trader Joes (but you can get it from Amazon). It’s perfect for this soup. Warning: It’s high in salt, so taste your soup before adding more salt.

If you want to make your own mushroom powder seasoning, look at this recipe from NomNomPaleo. I used this for quite a while before I found the Trader Joe’s brand.

Parmesan Cheese:

  • Optional. Any variety is OK but fresh cheese tastes best.
  • Sprinkle it over individual bowls immediately before eating.
close-up of meatball ratatouille soup with a spoon

Variations:

  • Add 1-2 tablespoons of pesto instead of the Italian Seasoning or basil.
  • Use ground turkey, sausage, hot sausage, or Italian sausage instead of beef.
  • Add 1/3 cup of dry white wine to the broth.
  • A teaspoon of chopped parsley adds color and freshness.

What do I serve with this soup?

French bread or garlic sticks, a green salad or nothing. It’s a complete meal by itself.

How to make Meatball Ratatouille Soup:

The ingredients for soup
The ingredients
portioning meatballs with ice cream scoop
Divide meat into small portions (2 teaspoons) and form mini-meatballs.
browning meatballs in a Dutch oven
Sauté meatballs until browned.
browning onions and bell peppers
Add onions and bell peppers and continue to brown.
preparing eggplant (peeling and dicing)
Meanwhile, prepare the eggplant and zucchini.
softening garlic
Add garlic and cook another minute or two.
adding the remainder of the ingredients
Add remaining ingredients including seasonings and bay leaf.
stirring soup
Stir and cook soup for 15-20 minutes until vegetables soften.
Meatball Ratatouille Soup with fresh basil and cheese for garnish

Pin the picture below to save for later.

bowl of meatball ratatouille soup--Pinterest Image


Did you try this recipe and enjoy it? Consider helping other readers (and me) by returning to this post. Leave a rating on the recipe card itself underneath the picture. Although always appreciated, comments aren’t required.

If you have a question or tip to share, please leave it in the regular comments after the recipe so I can answer back. Or, email me privately: paula at saladinajar.com.

Thank you for visiting!
Paula

Meatball Ratatouille Soup with basil and Parmesan garnishes

Ratatouille Soup with Meatballs

Yield: 5 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Mini meatballs combined with eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and basil make a delicious soup that's perfect for a junk-food hangover.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green peppers, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 2-3 medium zucchini (1 pound), sliced
  • 1/2 small to medium eggplant, peeled and diced (use the whole thing if you really love eggplant)
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 10-ounce can beef broth (or equal amount of beef base or bouillon and water)+ 1 can water
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon Mushroom & Company Umami Seasoning (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated parmesan cheese and fresh basil to garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Form ground beef into mini meatballs. You can do this by hand but my preference is a tiny ice cream dipper.
  2. Pour vegetable oil into a large saucepan or Dutch oven. When oil glistens, add meatballs and brown on all sides.
  3. Add onions and green peppers to ground beef and saute 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and saute another minute.
  4. Add zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, broth, and seasonings. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes. Serve your soup when vegetables are beginning to soften but before the green skin on the zucchini turns a dull, lifeless green.
  5. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired.

Notes

Variations:

  • Add 1-2 tablespoons of pesto instead of the basil.
  • Use ground turkey, sausage, hot sausage, or Italian sausage instead of beef.
  • Add 1/3 cup of dry white wine to the broth.
  • A teaspoon of chopped parsley adds color and freshness.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 5 servings Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 197Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 42mgSodium: 660mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 4gSugar: 7gProtein: 17g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

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Chaya

Tuesday 19th of January 2010

What a great dinner for the winter.

Sandy

Friday 15th of January 2010

Romaine, This Meatball Ratatouille soup looks so good. I will be trying it soon and I know my family will enjoy it as well. Thanks for sharing all your great recipes. You rock!

Cakelaw

Thursday 14th of January 2010

This soup sound delicious - and nutritionally is very good too.

Susie

Thursday 14th of January 2010

i've always enjoyed this soup when you make it! i like the quiz at the beginning of your post....definitely got me to actually read the text.

Staci

Thursday 14th of January 2010

Ironic that you post this today. We just watched the movie last night!!!