Pork and Fennel Meatball Soup
With a little preparation, this freezer-friendly pork and fennel meatball soup is perfect for a weeknight supper, and will warm you right through on those bitter winter nights.
This kind of soup reminds me of my favourite food as a child, and I still love it now. A meal in a bowl, with delicious but unchallenging flavours, it’s a great one for feeding a crowd. If you want to make any of the elements of this soup in advance, the meatballs can be made and frozen, then thawed and cooked and the tomato soup can also be frozen.
|For the soup:|
|2 tbsp||extra virgin olive oil|
|1||large celery stalk, chopped (see note)|
|1||carrot, peeled and chopped|
|2||large cloves of garlic, finely chopped|
|salt and freshly ground pepper|
|1 x 400g||tin of plum tomatoes, chopped|
|200ml||cream (regular or double)|
|150g||spaghetti, broken into little bits|
|For the meatballs:|
|3 tbsp||extra virgin olive oil|
|1||onion, finely chopped|
|1||large clove of garlic, crushed or finely grated|
|2 tsp||fennel seeds, toasted and ground (see note)|
|A couple of handfuls of||finely grated Parmesan|
|1 tbsp||chopped parsley|
You will need: a hand blender.
First, make the tomato soup. Place the olive oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and add the chopped onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, cover with a butter wrapper or a piece of parchment paper, and the saucepan lid, then turn the heat down to low and cook for about 10–12 minutes, until the vegetables are tender, stirring every few minutes to prevent them sticking.
Add the tomatoes and sugar, season with more salt and pepper, and cook over a medium to high heat, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes are melted through the sauce. Add the cream and boil for 3 minutes, then take off the heat.
Blend the sauce until completely smooth, then put back into the saucepan and add the stock to thin it out to the required consistency – you may want the soup a bit thicker, in which case just add 400–500ml of stock. Season to taste and set aside.
To make the meatballs, place 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a saucepan and add the finely chopped onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, then cook over a low heat, covered with a butter wrapper or a piece of parchment paper and the saucepan lid, until the onions are tender, about 10 minutes. Take off the heat, tip the onions into a mixing bowl and allow to cool (see note below).
While the onions are cooling, toast the fennel seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium to high heat. Crush them well, then add to the onions. Add the minced pork and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, then pick off ½ a teaspoonful of the mixture and cook it in a frying pan with a little olive oil and taste to check for seasoning. Add more salt, pepper or ground fennel if necessary, then, when you’re happy with the flavour, shape the meatballs. Make each one about 25g in weight (like a large walnut in its shell) – you should get about 20. Set them aside.
When you’re ready to cook the meatballs, place a large frying pan on a medium heat and add the remaining olive oil and the butter (the butter helps the meatballs to brown really nicely). Once the butter has melted and foamed, add the meatballs and cook, tossing regularly, for about 8–10 minutes, until they are cooked through. Turn the heat down to low once they start to take on a golden hue.
While the meatballs are cooking, cook the spaghetti. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add a good pinch of salt, then add the broken pasta. Stir and allow to cook for 6–8 minutes, until al dente, then drain.
To serve, bring the tomato soup to steaming point and stir in the cooked pasta. Divide among bowls, then top with the meatballs and scatter finely grated Parmesan and chopped parsley over the top.
When chopping the outer stalks of celery, it’s a good idea to peel away the tough fibrous layer on the outside.
To toast the fennel seeds, place them in a dry frying pan over a medium to high heat and cook for about a minute, until fragrant and a couple of shades darker. Tip them out of the pan immediately and crush, using an electric spice grinder or a pestle and mortar. You can use ready-ground fennel but it might not taste as fresh and fragrant, in which case use slightly more, to taste.
If the meatballs are not being cooked immediately, it’s essential that the onions cool completely before being added to the raw minced pork.
The meatballs can be made and frozen, then thawed and cooked, and the tomato soup can also be frozen. I like to tray-freeze the meatballs, which means I freeze them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, then tip them into a box, cover with a lid, and store in the freezer until they’re needed. That way, they won’t stick together.