December 19, 2006
Spaghetti with Fennel and Tomatoes.
Nowadays when I head for home, it is already gloomily dark outside and my son asks me why am I picking him at night. It took him a while to grasp the nuances of seasons and daylight. While winter is necessary for the renewal of earth and is a natural cycle, the lack of sunlight really erodes our activities. In our quest for maximizing daylight by turning the clock back in summer, we only make the transition into the dark winter more poignant. So its more of TV, scrabble and monopoly along with homework.
The pseudo night and the cold weather is making me feel hungry faster and lazier to cook an elaborate meal. So spaghetti or any other kind of one pot meal is welcoming and appreciated as we all slurp away in abandon. Everyone has their favorite one pot meals, whether it is a pulav, or noodles or fried rice or soup. In our house, pasta is a fool proof menu staple. Most of the time I just make it any way I like but when I was asked for a specific recipe, I had to think and settle on one recipe.
This recipe happens to be from the cookbook Jamie Oliver’s cookbook Happy Days. It has numerous delicious recipes using pasta, meat and fish, simplified in language and techniques. Jamie has an instinctive sense of cooking, and most of the recipes are fairly easy with just an emphasis on fresh ingredients and simple yet satisfying flavors. Jamie Oliver puts a bit of his nonchalant self into each recipe’s introduction and makes the book a good time pass read too. So you won't find any convoluted method or long drawn out recipes which is just what I need on weeknights.
The fennel in this recipe is what attracted me to it. Malabar cooking has fennel seeds in almost all its recipes so it is interesting to see fennel bulbs in use here as well as fennel powder. The sweetness of the fennel cuts the acidity of the tomatoes without any additional cream or cheese. I didn’t add salami as I don’t use it but you could add any sausage or salami you like. So here is the recipe without many changes from my side.
You will need Serves 4
Preparation Time:35 minutes
Spaghetti- 1 lb
For the Sauce:
EV Olive oil
Crushed Red Pepper-1/2 tsp
Fennel Seeds-1 tsp
Fennel bulb-1 whole
Plum Tomatoes-2 cans of 14oz each.
Sea salt and Black Pepper
Small handful chopped parsley or fennel green tops.
For the Crunchy Topping:
2-3 slices of stale bread.
1. Fennel Bulbs are also called as anise sometimes. The bulb is the part which imparts the fennel flavor but I did use the stalk too. Quarter the bulb lengthwise and cut out the base like you would for cabbage and slice it like onions. Slice the garlic finely.
2. Pour 2-3 tbsp of olive oil into a pan. Add salami (if you are adding salami) and sliced garlic. Add the crushed fennel seeds. Stir on medium heat and add the finely sliced fennel, dried red chili flakes and let it cook for about 5-8 minutes or till the fennel starts wilting. Add the tomatoes and let it simmer covered on low heat for about 20-25 minutes. The sauce will start thickening and when it is almost ready you will see droplets of oil arising randomly. Season with salt and pepper and keep aside.
3. Give the sauce a 5 or 10 minute head start, and when it reaches the simmering state, start on the pasta. Heat water and 1 tsp of salt in a pot large enough to accommodate the spaghetti and add the dried spaghetti when it comes to a boil. Cook the spaghetti as per the package instructions as the cooking time varies from brand to brand.
Meanwhile, to make the crunchy bread crumbs (pangritata as Jamie calls it): Make coarse bread crumbs from the stale bread by chopping it in the food processor. Heat 2-3 tbsp of olive oil in a pan and sauté the bread crumbs on low heat till they turn golden and crisp. Add salt, pepper and any herb to flavor it.
4. When the spaghetti is cooked until al dente (it should still feel a little undercooked), drain it in a colander and toss it into the sauce. Stir to coat the pasta evenly and let it absorb the flavors. Serve onto a large bowl and sprinkle with the golden bread crumbs, chopped green fennel tops or parsley over all.
Related Posts: Spicyana's Fennel Pasta
Don't forget to check out my post at The Daily Tiffin.