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Hearty Italian Fare from Rick Tramonto's Kitchen

by Rick Tramonto & Mary Goodbody

Zuppa di Finocchio e Arancia
(Fennel Orange Soup)
Since I first tasted it, I have been especially fond of fennel, with its fresh anise flavor. I braise it, add it raw to salads, and make soup with it. Tossing a cheese rind into the soup is a classic Italian technique to boost the flavor— and to satisfy the Italian home cook's penchant for never wasting a thing!
Serves 6 to 8


    ~ 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
    ~ 1 star anise
    ~ 1½ teaspoons coriander seeds
    ~ ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    ~ ¼ cup olive oil
    ~ ½ cup unsalted butter, cubed
    ~ 3 fennel bulbs, sliced, fronds reserved
    ~ 1 white onion, sliced
    ~ Kosher salt
    ~ 6 garlic doves, sliced
    ~ 3 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind
    ~ Juice and grated zest of 1 orange
    ~ ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
    ~ 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved (about 2 tablespoons)


1. Lay a 5- to 6-inch square of cheesecloth on a work surface. Pile the fennel seeds, star anise, coriander seeds, and red pepper in the center. Gather the corners together and tie with a length of string to make a spice sachet.

2. In a heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. When the butter melts, but before it starts to brown, add the sliced fennel, the onion, and the spice sachet. Season to taste with salt and let the vegetables cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until they are completely translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until the garlic softens.

3. Add the cheese rind, orange juice, and 2 quarts of water and bring to a brisk simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes to give the flavors time to develop. Remove the cheese rind and spice sachet.

4. Meanwhile, chop the reserved fennel fronds so that you have about 2 tablespoons. Discard the rest.

5. Transfer the soup to the jar of a blender and puree until smooth. You may have to do this in batches. While the soup is pureeing, slowly pour the extra virgin olive oil into the soup and blend until incorporated.

6. Ladle into warm soup bowls. Garnish with the shaved cheese, orange zest, and fennel fronds and serve.


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