pork noodle soup with broccoli rabe and fennel
Hello and welcome to A Newsletter! If you’ve found your way over by some miracle but are not yet subscribed, here, let me help you with that:
While I haven’t had bangs since I was in my early 20’s, I frequently have the urge to “get bangs.” I don’t mean literally get bangs (this face could never), I mean something I can do that’s in my control at this very moment that will have a relatively meaningless yet immediate and significant impact.
Yesterday, while I didn’t actually get bangs, I “got bangs” when I manically removed all the hardware of my old IKEA cabinets, then took it one step further by removing two of the cabinets themselves. I love using a power drill, it gives me a fantastic sense of accomplishment. So powerful! So much drilling.
I fantasized about doing this nearly every day-- I was never that comfortable with the “new” fixtures of this otherwise old-feeling and absolutely dreamy apartment. The clean-looking cabinetry is there to hide the mess, sure, but also hide the things that make me, me. The half-used jars of coconut oil and ghee next to the popcorn and nutritional yeast, the scratched-up melamine bowls courtesy of my insomnia-fueled Etsy purchases. The glasses I spent too much money on but enjoy drinking my water from as it really elevates the experience, the stacked measuring cups, the mismatched plates, the 82 different types of beans. I love to expose those things, proud to have them on display despite the chaos and disorder and disfunction they may belie. Oh god-- I’m using the cabinets as a metaphor for myself and I am sorry!
Anyway, just like getting bangs, I don’t *think* it was a huge mistake, I think it looks better, I think I like it. It looks sort of unfinished, a little unkempt, a bit like a mistake-- but also more lived in, warmer, more like “me”. It’s still a work in progress (JUST LIKE ALL OF US jk, I’ll stop), but a good fix for someone who doesn’t want to commit thousands of dollars to an apartment they don’t own.
This is a really long way of saying: When I was cleaning out my pantry to prepare for the PANTRY EXPOSURE, I found several boxes of half-full pasta. It was annoying, I’m still annoyed, but I have only myself to blame. The upside is I was reminded that a half box is exactly what you need for a big pot of noodle soup (which is why I have so many half boxes), and then I could not stop thinking about noodle soup. I have been making….so many noodle soups.
While all varieties of chicken noodle soup are obviously a perfect food (thank you to my youthful assistant Jane for telling me about Soup Girls), sometimes eating it too many days in a row makes me feel all Beth from Little Women. When I want something a bit punchier, something heartier but still brothy, something rich but full of greenery, I want this version, where the only thing it has in common with chicken noodle soup is the noodle part. That’s right. No celery, no dill (🥲), but there is ground pork, tender slices of garlic, toasted fennel seed, crushed red pepper flakes, and lots of broccoli rabe. A dream pot, really.
If the words “broccoli rabe” send you into a spiral, please know that I choose it for a reason here and I’m asking you to take a leap of faith. The fattiness of the pork coupled with the “faux-blanch” of adding it to simmering broth, makes it more palatable for those sensitive to bitterness, enhancing its natural sweetness and mellowing out the sharpness. I happen to enjoy bitter flavors, but if that’s not you, I trust you’ll still find this soup pleasing to your mouth (the soup could be more bitter if you ask me!).
Like all “quick soups” that don’t have you making your stock or broth from scratch, you’re relying heavily on the flavor of the broth you’re using. “And that’s why I use Better than Bouillion” (NOT SPONSORED, JUST WILD FOR THIS PRODUCT). It will truly make anything you use boxed broth/stock for taste better by about 93 miles. I have made this soup with their vegetable bouillon, their chicken bouillon, and their not-chicken bouillon. All of them: 10/10, no notes, would BTB again and again.
Print the recipe HERE.
PORK NOODLE SOUP WITH BROCCOLI RABE AND FENNEL
The broccoli rabe is important here as it is in the name of the recipe. All jokes aside (!), it does have a unique ability to be everything at once: both delicate and sturdy, bitter and sweet. Simmering it in the fatty, seasoned broth mimics the effect of blanching, which mellows out the intensity some people find so offputting, so I’d love for you to take a leap of faith even if you don’t think you like it. If you REALLY hate it, okay, use kale.
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 pound ground pork*
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fennel seed
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth (I strongly recommend using water + Better Than Bouillon)
6–8 ounces pasta (short, tube-y noodle or something fun like radiatori)**
1 bunch broccoli rabe, thick stems removed, chopped (or fine, use kale)
Parmesan or pecorino, lots of it
1 lemon, halved for squeezing (optional)
*alternatively, use one pound of hot italian sausage, casing removed, and leave out the additional fennel seed and red pepper flakes
**If you’re into weighing out your pasta, I can’t relate, but we are talking approximately 6 ounces of pasta needed here to serve 4 people. That’s about ⅓ of a one-pound box, ½ if your box is 12 ounces (which many are these days??). Basically: just eyeball it. Sorry in advance for all the opened boxes of pasta you’re about to have.
1. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add pork and season with salt and pepper. Cook, resisting the urge to break it up too much at first. As it browns, break it up into small pieces; some of the pork will get very small (these will get very brown and crispy) and some will stay larger in sausage-like clumps (these will stay tender and juicer). Once the pork is about 80% browned to your liking, about 8–10 minutes, add the garlic. Continue cooking until the pork is well browned throughout and the garlic is softened and starting to brown around the edges, another 4–5 minutes.
2. Add the fennel seed and crushed red pepper flakes. Give it a stir to toast the spices in the pork fat, cooking a minute or two. Add the chicken broth (or the water and Better than Bouillon), season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
3. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a medium pot of salted water until just before al dente (it’ll continue to cook in the soup, but good to give it a head start. I don’t love cooking raw pasta in the soup, makes the broth too starchy/cloudy).
4. Once the soup has simmered a few minutes, add the broccoli rabe and the pasta, stirring to wilt the rabe. Simmer another 5–8 minutes or so, until the rabe is tender and the flavors have mingled appropriately. Season with salt, pepper and more crushed red pepper flakes if you like.
5. To serve, ladle into bowls and top with tons of cheese. Sometimes I squeeze lemon over, but not always (doesn’t need it, but it can be nice).
DO AHEAD: This soup is great the next day, but the pasta does have a tendency to get a little puffy/soft. Fine for leftovers (had mine today) but if you’re making to serve next day, I’d add pasta when you’re ready to eat.
EAT WITH: A big salad with toasted walnuts and lots of cheese, probably. Maybe some sourdough toasted in oil and rubbed with garlic.