I have been making this Fennel and Prosciutto soup for quite a few years.
This time when I made it I decided to puree the fennel, onion and garlic base and I think it is a lot nicer this way.
Pureeing the vegies blends and smooths out the flavors, allowing the prosciutto to stand out more.
I just noticed an interesting blog post on The Gaia Health Blog about fresh fennel as well as fennel seeds being useful for helping to prevent gas or bloating from foods.
Wikipedia has a very informative article about fennel. This article goes into detail about the difference between fennel and anise. I always thought that they were the same plant and were called different names. Nope, they are two totally different plants! Florence fennel is the fresh celerylike bulb that you can find in the fresh produce section. It is more aromatic and sweeter than the wild type of fennel that can be found in different parts of the world including the US. There was a lot of wild fennel that grew in the area of the Central California coast where I was raised. Fennel seeds that you can find in the dry herb section of your grocery store are truly fennel.
Anise seeds and anise extract are from a totally different plant. You might be able to find anise extract in your grocery store for baking traditional biscotti, but your best source would probably be online.
SilverCloudEstates.com sells both anise extract and anise seed. Their prices seem reasonable, but I didn’t spend a lot of time comparing prices. I also found vanilla beans on Silver Cloud’s site in case you need a source. Their price for a tube of 3 beans is $9.00; 8 ounces (approximately 40 beans) is $29.50.
This soup recipe is very healthy because it is just vegies, homemade stock and prosciutto. I buy Trader Joe’s own brand of prosciutto because it has no nitrates or nitrites.
The only ingredients are pork and salt. The salt from the prosciutto flavors this soup perfectly so there is no need to add more.
If you haven’t cooked with fresh fennel before, I hope you will give it a try!
This soup freezes well, so don’t worry about making too much!
When you are buying fresh fennel, try to find some that doesn’t have any brown spots on the bulb part. The cut on the bottom should be fresh and not brown either. It is hard to find any bulbs that are fresh like that, probably because the stores don’t sell fennel fast enough. As the fresh fennel sits around in the store it oxidizes and the flavor becomes much stronger and also bitter. It is not as critical for the fennel to be ultra fresh if you are going to cook it, but some recipes use raw fennel and for that you need to find fresh.
A great tasting appetizer recipe that uses fresh fennel is Mushrooms Stuffed with Fennel, Apple and Blue Cheese.
Green Bean Salad with Fennel, Dried Blueberries and Blue Cheese is another of my favorite recipes with fresh fennel.
Fresh fennel is also great in Italian Sausage Sauce on Zucchini Ribbon “Pasta“.
I shared this recipe with The Hearth and Soul Hop at 21st Century Housewife, Real Food Wednesday at Kelly The Kitchen Kop, Allergy Free Wednesdays at The Willing Cook, Pennywise Platter Thursday at The Nourishing Gourmet, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager, Allergy Friendly Friday at Cybele Pascal Allergy Friendly Cuisine
In a medium large stockpot, saute fennel, onions, garlic and fennel seeds.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 fennel bulbs trimmed and chopped small (save some leafy tops for garnish)
(1 and 1/2 pounds gave me 2 and 1/2 cups chopped fennel)
1 and 1/2 cups onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
Saute vegies until they are slightly limp.
Add 6 cups of stock- your choice beef, chicken or vegie
Simmer soup mixture until vegies are soft enough to puree
Puree soup with an immersion blender in the pot, or puree in batches in your blender or food processor. Be careful of the hot soup!
Add pureed soup back into the stock pot. Add chopped prosciutto.
1- four ounce package prosciutto, chopped into little pieces(1 cup chopped)
Heat soup up again and top with grated reggiano cheese
Garnish with little bits of reserved fennel tops
If you want to make this soup heartier, you can add little pieces of cooked Italian sausage.
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