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Brothy Meatballs with Peas, Fennel, and Tiny Pasta

Brothy Meatballs with Peas, Fennel, and Tiny Pasta

This dish is a perfect choice for those blustery but bright early spring days: It's comforting from the simple-but-flavorful broth and bright from the crunchy fresh topping.



  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup very finely chopped parsley
  • ¾ cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lb. ground pork or lamb


  • 2 Tbsp. (or more) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, halved, cored, very thinly sliced lengthwise, divided
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar, divided
  • 2 cups pea shoots (tendrils)
  • ½ cup parsley leaves with tender stems
  • 8 oz. sugar snap peas, thinly sliced on a diagonal (about 2 cups)
  • 2 cups shelled fresh (or frozen) English peas and/or shelled fava beans
  • 3 cups cooked fregola, Israeli couscous, or farro
  • Aleppo-style pepper (optional), lemon wedges, and grated Parmesan (for serving)

Recipe Preparation


  • Mix onion, parsley, yogurt, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper in a large bowl just to combine. Add pork and mix with your hands (or a wooden spoon) until well blended but take care not to overmix, or meatballs could be dense.

  • Using your hands, lightly pack meatball mixture into tangerine-size balls (about 1½" in diameter) and place them on a rimmed baking sheet.


  • Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high. Working in batches and adding more oil if needed, add meatballs to pot, making sure to leave enough space between them so you can move them freely, and cook, turning occasionally to help them keep their shape, until evenly browned on all sides, 5–8 minutes. Transfer to a clean rimmed baking sheet.

  • Add shallots, garlic, and half of fennel to pot (no need to wipe out). Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally and reducing heat as needed, until vegetables are softened and starting to brown, 10–12 minutes.

  • Add broth and 2 Tbsp. vinegar to pot and bring liquid to a simmer. Return meatballs to pot along with any juices that have accumulated on baking sheet and simmer long enough to let flavors meld, 6–8 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, toss pea shoots, dill, remaining sliced fennel bulb and remaining 1 Tbsp. vinegar in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Set salad aside.

  • Just before serving, add sugar snap peas and English peas to broth and cook until no longer raw, just a minute or two (you want them to retain a little bit of bite).

  • Spoon fregola into bowls and ladle meatballs, vegetables, and broth over. Top with reserved pea shoot salad and sprinkle with Aleppo-style pepper if desired. Serve lemon wedges and Parmesan alongside.

Reviews SectionThis was amazing, but the meatballs fell apart so easily. It was still really nice with the mince mixture throughout the broth. I especially loved all the fennel.AnonymousAustralia04/11/20This is honestly some of the best soup I have ever had. I didn’t follow the recipe perfectly as I couldn’t get my hands on enough pea shoots and a couple other items. Even still- IT IS SO GOOD. The lemon adds a wonderful crisp flavor and I used couscous which are just fun to eat amiright? Anyway- make this.ATellyCooksJersey11/17/19This took a while to make and there were way too many peas for my liking. This easily serves 8 people.I tweaked this recipe a little bit and it’s great but I will say the meatballs are super salty!! I’ll use less salt next time for sure.AnonymousNew York 07/09/19My meatballs stuck to the pan and were impossible to turn without falling apart...any advice?AnonymousMountain View07/09/19I wanted to love this but it was pretty meh :( I was hoping the meatballs would be more flavorful. The broth was pretty good though.AnonymousSan Diego05/29/19This recipe is super delicious and really impressive to serve up. I love the different possible variations and the idea that you could break down the 'make ahead' elements to make it a quick weeknight recipe. I can't wait to make it again!!AnonymousMontreal05/26/19Loved this - perfect for when you want something warm but fresh and light at the same time. Skipped the dill, used ditalini pasta, and couldn’t find pea tendrils so used bok choi instead.Note: the recipe is missing parsley in one of the steps- where it says add dill I think it should be dill and parsley (if you are using both)Darn autocorrect. I used farro, not Fargo.This is excellent! I used ground pork, Fargo, and English peas and made everything exactly as written. However, I would say the recipe easily feeds 8 and maybe even 10 light eaters.Absolutely delicious! We used lamb for the meatballs and farro for the grain (no dill bc we didn't have any) and it was amazing. Extremely hearty, filling and healthy. My sister-in-law said, "This was the best homemade meal I've had in months!" Would definitely cook again.This was very quick and inexpensive to make. I replaced the couscous (I didn’t have any) with wholewheat noodles, adding them to the broth as I brought it to a boil. Really fresh. The meatballs taste like Tuscan fennel sausage from the Italian deli. I will definitely make it again!AnonymousGlasgow 04/27/19I halved the recipe. Didn’t use pea shoots, and used heavy cream instead of yogurt (didn’t have yogurt). My bf says: “Pretty tasty. Lots of different ingredients but very vegetable forward, fresh tasting. It all works together!”melodylWashington,DC04/23/19

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