Romanian Stuffed Pepper Soup: Ciorba de Ardei Umpluti

stuffed pepper soup cooking in pot with wooden spatula on pot

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One of Szilard’s favorite soups that his mom used to make is ciorba de ardei umpluti, or, Romanian stuffed pepper soup. This is the perfect dish for a cold winter night, with the savory aromas wafting through the house. There are a few different variations to this soup, which we’ll cover in the recipe. We’ll include our favorite variations, but, as always, feel free to tailor this as you see fit!

An interesting thing about this soup is that it’s really not available in restaurants! This is probably due to the fact that you can’t really batch this one ahead of time, as the peppers will get soggy and soft if they sit around in the broth too long. It’s also not the easiest of the Romanian soups to make, so this could be a factor as well.

Romanian Stuffed Pepper Soup

A traditional Romanian recipe for stuffed pepper soup.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Course Soup
Cuisine Romanian
Servings 10 Big Bowls

Equipment

  • 1 8 Quart Pot

Ingredients
  

  • 2.2 Lbs. Ground Pork
  • 10-12 Peppers Medium Size, Assorted Colors
  • 2 Turnips Peeled
  • 4 Carrots Medium Size
  • 2 Tbsp. Oil Olive Oil or Sunflower Seed Oil
  • 2 Eggs
  • 17 Oz. Tomato Paste
  • 1 Bunch Parsley
  • 1.5 Tbsp. White Vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Ground Paprika Add More To Taste
  • Ground Black Pepper To Taste
  • Salt To Taste

We always use our trusted ‘big green pot’ for soups. Szilard can literally eat soup twice a day for a week straight. Me, on the other hand? Not so much. Still, we tend to make really big batches, particularly since soups are so much better the next day (and the day after…).

Note: I always refer to these as soups, but in traditional Romanian cuisine, there’s a distinct difference between ciorba and supa.

You can always tailor this recipe by halving it and using a smaller pot and half the ingredients in order to accommodate a smaller family. I’m chuckling in my head as I type this, mostly because our family is only two (Olly is not yet eating meatball soup!).

Romanian Stuffed Pepper Soup – Ciorba de Ardei Umpluti

prep for stuffed pepper soup

1 – Pour a shot of tuica and grab a beer. You need this for virtually all of our recipes!

2 – Gather your ingredients. Peel the turnips and carrots. Cut both lengthwise and then in half, so they are quartered. In traditional Romanian cuisine, the carrots are cut much larger than you’d expect than when you cook in the United States, particularly for this soup.

tattooed hands chopping onions on wooden cutting board

3 – Dice the onions. Add your oil to the pot and slowly heat. Once the oil is heated, add onions and cook until they are just translucent.

4 – Add the paprika and stir with the onions for 10 seconds in order to impart the flavors. Remember, dry spices should be added earlier in the dish to cook properly. When working with fresh spices, you add them towards the end.

filling a pot with water

5 – Fill the pot with water, leaving two inches at the top.

6 – Once the water is boiling, add the cut carrots and turnips.

7 – Add the bay leaves, salt and pepper. Start slowly when adding the salt and pepper, as you can always add more later according to your preference.

ground meat in bowl for stuffed pepper soup

8 – While the soup starts to cook, you can add your ground pork into a large mixing bowl. Add two eggs, a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until it is thoroughly incorporated.

two eggs in a bowl of ground meat
tattooed hands mixing ground meat and eggs

9 – Cut the stem out of the pepper and remove the seeds and pith. Gently stuff the meat mixture into the peppers, packing tightly. The meat shrinks as it cooks, so if you don’t pack it tight enough, the meat will come out of the peppers when cooking in the soup.

stuffing peppers with meat for stuffed peppers soup
stuffing peppers with meat for ciorba de ardeii umpluti

10 – Add the peppers to the soup. If you have any remaining meat mixture, you can make small meatballs and add them as well.

red, green, and yellow peppers stuffed with ground meat mixture
stuffed pepper soup steaming in pot

11 – Once you’ve added the peppers, add the tomato paste and stir until it is fully incorporated into the stuffed pepper soup.

stuffed pepper soup cooking in pot

12 – Leave the soup until it comes to a boil. Once it’s boiling, check the meat inside the peppers with a fork to test for doneness. If the fork inserts and exits easily, it’s done!

13 – Once the meat is done, add your chopped parsley. Leave the soup for around 5 minutes to simmer.

14 – Add a dash of vinegar. This is really according to personal preference. Honestly, every time Szilard makes this for me, I feel it’s a little too vinegar-y, whereas he thinks it’s perfect. It all comes down to what you want, like, and expect from the dish. The acidity of the vinegar adds a bit of complexity to the dish that you wouldn’t otherwise have. Just be careful to not add too much!

stuffed pepper soup in bowl sprinkled with parsley

Tips and Variations for Romanian Stuffed Pepper Soup

While traditionally, parsley is used in this soup, a substitution that we like to make is to substitute sorel (leustean).

You can add minced garlic to the meatballs, or, if you’re not strict on tradition, you could always add a bit of parmesan for added flavor.

You can use peppers of your color of preference. We like to use a mix of red, green, and yellow peppers since it adds a complex flavor to the dish.

Some people put rice into the meat mixture as well. This gives the meat a little fluffy texture, but personally, we prefer to omit the rice in the meat mixture for this Romanian stuffed pepper soup.

Another popular variation is to add a dollop of sour cream to the soup, incorporating it gradually as to not curdle.

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