Kale, Fennel and Spicy Meatball Soup

May 9, 2012 § 1 Comment

This soup tastes like love.

I’ve been desperately watching the fennel bulbs at the market to see when they start becoming reasonably-sized and reasonably-priced and that time is finally here. Thank god. I’m not into winter but I am into fennel at $1 a bulb.

Known as Italian Wedding Soup, this recipe is an adaptation of one from Serious Eats, I’d never had or heard of this soup before, although any dummy could figure out that it’s an amazing combination. Kale (my favourite), beef (or beef and pork) dumplings, herbs and onions, fennel and chicken stock, topped with wee parmesan crisps. See? Love.

There are a few steps to this soup, one of which is the chicken stock. I know that you probably aren’t going to make stock from scratch. I try and do big batches occasionally for clear soups like this which rely more on the quality of the stock than a blended soup does, but it’s not always possible.

So it’s worth checking out what Choice has to say on packaged stocks because it’s enlightening (I love you Maggie Beer but no stock is worth me paying $6 for 250ml). Choice comes to the conclusion that the best value for money is the Gravox Real Chicken Stock Salt Reduced. EDIT: A recent worthwhile review of packaged stocks in Australia comes from The Culinary Library, the conclusions? Don’t buy Campbell’s, it’s shit.

Do check out the prices at butchers, especially the specialty chicken ones at your local market, they often sell proper stock at ok prices.

So now that we’re pretending you have a chest freezer full of homemade stock, here is how to make the Kale, Fennel and Spicy Meatball Soup:


350 grams beef mince (or 250 grams beef & 100 grams pork)
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 – 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)

1/2 teaspoon smoky paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (optional)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 teaspoon salt (if your stock is salt free)
1 medium bulb fennel, chopped
6 cups chicken stock
3 – 4 cups of kale leaves (or silver beet if kale is not available), chopped into bite-sized pieces

For the meatballs:
Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly, roll into balls about walnut-sized between your palms, you may need to add a tablepoon of water or so if the mix isn’t coming together. Place the meatballs on a tray with baking paper and refrigerate for a minimum of ten minutes.

Using a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive olive oil on medium heat and add the chopped onion, cook until translucent and add the chopped celery and fennel, cook for another 5 minutes. Add to this the stock and the salt and turn heat to high, bringing to boil. Add the kale then  turn the heat down to low and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, heat a large pan over medium heat on the stove. Fry the meatballs in this, in two batches if necessary. They should be browned but not dried out, it will take about 10 minutes to have them just cooked.

Add the cooked meatballs to the soup and simmer for another 2 minutes before serving.

Serve with grated parmesan or parmesan crisps** and good bread and butter

* This soup with meatballs is amazing, but for a speedy version you can fry up some sliced spicy sausage, such as chorizo and use it in the exact same way you use the meatballs.
** Recipe for parmesan crisps to follow.

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