Aired January 9, 2012
1 pound ground pork
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds, half a palmful
1 teaspoon ground red pepper, such as Buon Italia
5 to 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped, divided
2 slices stale white bread, soaked in milk
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, a couple of handfuls, plus reserve rind for soup
2 tablespoons EVOO Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 pound pancetta, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 head escarole, chopped
A few grates of nutmeg
1 can cannellini beans, drained
1 quart chicken stock
2 to 3 cups water
1 cup small-cut pasta, such as mini penne, mezze rigatoni or orechiette (ear-shaped pasta)
Blanch broccoli rabe in salted, boiling water for 5 minutes then cold shock, drain and reserve.
Mix pork with fennel seeds, red pepper, black pepper and 2 cloves chopped garlic. Squeeze excess milk from bread and crumble very fine into the bowl, add egg and grated cheese. Mix to combine.
Heat EVOO in a pot over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and brown 2-3 minutes. Add onions and remaining garlic, and saut 5 minutes. Stir in escarole and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Once greens are wilted, add stock, water and cheese rind, and bring to a low boil.
Roll meat into balls and add to soup. Cook 5 minutes, add pasta and cook to al dente. Stir in beans and rabe, and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve in bowls and topped with grated cheese.