A short distance from my apartment is Claude Alley where three restaurants, all under the same ownership, are located. The newest of the three restaurants – Claudine – is a self-described French eatery and wine bar. It has a contemporary vibe and serves simple preparations of great food.
One dish that I don’t think will ever leave the menu is Soupe aux Boulettes – described in the menu as “a pork and ricotta meatball soup with fregola, brodo, kale, parmesan and Arbequina olive oil”. After enjoying this soup at Claudine on many visits, I once prepared a passable version of this recipe with packaged chicken stock. It was good, but a homemade broth in the Italian style – or Brodo improves this soup immeasurably. A recipe for Brodo can be found here.
The description of this soup in the Claudine menu is the recipe. One of the stumbling blocks I faced when first making this soup was finding out just what fregola was and where could I get it. Fregola Sarda is a small, round Sardinian pasta made of toasted semolina flour. It holds up well in soups. Fregola Sarda can be found in Italian and specialty markets. I picked it up at A.G. Ferrari in San Francisco.
For the meatballs, I have used a combination of veal and pork rather than just pork alone. As for any meatball, the ground meat is combined with egg, bread crumbs, parsley and cheese (in this case Pecorino Romano rather than the ricotta used at Claudine). The meatballs are rolled to a small size – between ½” and ¾” in diameter. These are not baked, or browned, but cooked in the broth as the is soup assembled.
Fresh lemon juice is squeezed on the blanched kale before assembling the soup. The lemon juice adds a nice, bright note. This recipe as described here makes two to three servings, but it can be scaled up for more.
- ¼ pound ground veal
- ¼ pound ground pork
- ¼ cup breadcrumbs (packaged or freshly prepared)
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup flat leaf parsley chopped
- 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1 large clove garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest minced
- 1/8 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, or to taste.
- 1 quart Brodo (salted to taste)
- ½ cup Kale chopped
- 1 cup Fregola Sarda
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- High quality extra virgin olive oil such as Arbequina Olive Oil
- In a mixing bowl, combine by hand veal, pork, breadcrumbs, egg, parsley, Pecorino Romano, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper. Roll into small meatballs approximately ¾” round. Place on a sheet of parchment paper and set aside.
- Pour Brodo into a medium sized saucepan over medium heat and bring to a soft boil. Place the prepared meatballs in the Brodo and let cook for 10 minutes, or until done. Remove cooked meatballs and set aside.
- Place the chopped kale in the broth to blanch for approximately 3 minutes. Remove the kale and drizzle about ¼ teaspoon fresh lemon juice over the top of the kale.
- At the same time as Step 2, fill a large saucepan with salted water and bring to boil. Add the Fregola and cook until done. Approximately 12 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- To finish the soup, return the cooked meatballs and blanched kale to the Brodo. In the center of a soup bowl place ¼ cup of the Fregola Sarda in a mound. Ladle the Brodo with meatballs and kale around the Fregola. Place ¼ cup of Parmigianino Reggiano in the center of bowl. Drizzle with olive oil.