Braised Pork and Fennel Meatballs with Crispy Garlic Bread

As we mentioned yesterday, we’re on a quest this week to recreate some great recipes from other bloggers around the web and hopefully make some new Internet friends in the process. Today we’re going to talk about the Braised Pork and Fennel Meatballs from Kitchen Daily. We complimented this recipe with our own crispy garlic bread, which makes for a wonderful side.

We’ve made a lot of meatballs in our day, so when we got ready to make these we were expecting to see the traditional staples of breadcrumbs and egg mixed with the meat in order to form the balls. Not so much with this recipe – it’s pure pork goodness. We were a little thrown by this, maybe even a little skeptical, but it all turned out okay. Read on to find out how it went.

Making the Dish
What You’ll Need

For the meatballs:
1 lb ground pork
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, minced on a microplane
2 teaspoons toasted fennel seeds
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

For the braise:
2 cloves garlic, fine sliced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 fennel bulb, finely sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1 teaspoon ground fennel
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

For the bread:
1 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
3 – 5 cloves minced garlic
1 parbaked baguette

This dish involves a lot of fennel, which gives it a nice, licorice-y flavor. We start off by taking a few teaspoons of fennel seed, putting them in a little tray of aluminum foil, and toasting them in the toaster oven for a few minutes. This gives them a more smokey flavor.

After they’ve been toasted, you can use a mortar and pestle to grind them if you have one, or if you’re like us and don’t, you can put them in a plastic bag and beat on it with whatever heavy item you have (in our case, a meat mallet).

Add these to your ground pork, and on top of that add your minced garlic and hot pepper flakes and salt. We added additionally a touch of dried basil in order to provide a little savory sweetness to the meatballs. Shape these into small, golf ball sized balls, and place them on a plate and put them in the fridge for a bit to let them firm up. Since we’re not using any breadcrumbs or egg, this is really important to make sure they stay in their shape!
Next, prepare your veggies. Take the fennel bulb and slice it thin. Make sure everything is rinsed off and clean, as fennel has a way of getting dirt stuck inside of it. Additionally, dice up your onion and garlic nice and small, and grind up some fennel seeds (again, we recommend the meat mallet with a plastic bag for those of you lacking an official grinding device).


 Add the veggies and fennel seed into a large pot over medium heat with olive oil and let them cook down until they are nice and soft and starting to get golden (Kitchen Daily says to add the fennel in after, we did it right up front, as it helps to bring out the flavor of the fennel a bit more). You’ll want to take your time on this as caramelizing the fennel and onion really helps to bring out the flavor.Once that’s done, add in your white wine and deglaze the pan. Then, add in your tomatoes and bring the whole thing to a boil. After it comes to a boil, cover and simmer gently while you prepare your meatballs.In a large nonstick pan, add in a bit of olive oil and bring to medium heat. Take your meatballs out of the fridge and then nestle them onto the pan. Let them brown nicely on each side, and then using tongs of a spoon, turn them so they get browned on all sides.

Once they’re nicely browned, remove them from the oil, pat them off on a paper towel, and then add them into the simmering sauce. Let them simmer for about 10 – 15 minutes.

You can take one out and split it open to make sure they are done, and then feed part of your test meatball to the Herbie in your life.
While the meatballs are simmering, you can prepare your garlic bread. Our recipe for this is pretty simple. We use a parbaked baguette, slice it in half, and coat it with our garlic sauce. Our garlic sauce is just olive oil mixed with as much garlic as you can handle, diced up, some garlic salt, pepper, and oregano, about a half teaspoon of each for a cup of olive oil. Throw that in the oven at 350 and cook until the bread is finished. It’s simple, easy, and will be delicious.

The Result When all is said and done, place your meatballs in a nice bowl, cover with a bit of the sauce, and top with grated pecorino cheese. Serve with the crispy garlic bread and use it to sop up the delicious, fennelly sauce.

The meatballs ended up being surprisingly delicious. The fennel definitely sings through and defines the dish, but there are a lot more flavors at work here with the red pepper and basil and the pork is a nice complementary flavor that brings them out rather than covering them up. The fennel sauce is a really nice treat. In the future we’ll likely use our own sauce to mix into the fennel/onion/fennel seeds, rather than plain crushed tomatoes, to give it a bit more flavor and pop, but for a quick easy solution, this definitely has a lot of complexity and will leave you satisfied.

Cheers to Kitchen Daily and Gail Simmons for introducing this meal to us. We’re big fennel fans and we’ll definitely be back to it!