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
Garlic-2 cloves
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.


Priya Bhaskaran said...

Hey Shaheen, after a long time I am here... it is so true..the weather makes people lazy I guess...I try to cook everything in the evening and eat the leftovers until the next evening-ha ha and my lazy meal is always pasta, it is quik fix at my home..btw I have never tried pasta with fennel bulb, will try for sure:)

Nabeela said...

oh what a co-incidence, I bought fennel for cooking too :)
But I'm cooking mine differently...will post it soon. Pastas are so easy to make. If only my husband was as enthusiatic about it as me, my life would be simple :P

Nabeela said...

oops forgot to add, you might wanna check this game out for the kids.....its AWESOME...I ordered one for can be played by both adults and kids(over the age of 8) alike

Menu Today said...

Hi Shaheen,
Looking nice. I will try this soon. Thanks for sharing.

indosungod said...

Shaheen lovely looking pasta. I have to give fennel a try too, never used it for cooking.

All at home except me love pasta, So in the season of giving I am going to be a little selfless and make my family happy with some pasta. Happy Holidays!

WhItE_PoPlAr said...

Shaheen, your pasta looks very yummy! I tried Jamie's Working Girl Pasta pver the weekend, too. It was made using fresh tuna, another delicious recipe.

Asha said...

Beautiful looking pasta!Fennel souds gret, I can imagine the aroma! Good one Shaheen.
Happy Hoildays:)

Sandeepa said...

Great looking Pasta Shaheen, shall try making it soon. We don't eat a lot of pasta, but this looks inviting

Krithika said...

Looks like I need to buy fennel now :-)
Looks fabulous !

Karina said...

Shasheen, what a beautiful combo. I will try this with gluten-free spaghetti. Fennel + Jamie Oliver = what's NOT to love? ;-)

Lakshmiammal said...

Hi Shaheen,
Love the combo.I too have a whole wheat spaghetti for a long time in the pantry.I gonna spice it up with fennel.Thanks for the recipe

gattina said...

I like your positive point of view of winter (renewal of earth)! I used to look at it as end of the year, only thought of shoveling snow and trapping in the house... Both your and Archana fennel pasta are great, I'll give it a try!
Happy holiday my friend!

surya said...

Nice recipe shaheen.I never used fennel bulbs in pasta before.I have to try this one.Thanks.

rp said...

Wow! That's a must try.

Hmm I wonder why Italians always cook their pasta al dente. I always like it soft and maybe a little overcooked. That texture is tastier to me, and I always cook it an extra 2-3 minutes.

Are the fennel bulbs bitter like fennel seeds?

Meena said...

This looks absolutely delish Shaheen! Can't wait to give it a try!

babli said...

Hey Shaneen, aren;t you true? definitely winter is not one of my favourites. Laziness creeps in somehow, especially after work only thing you could dream of is lie on the couch. :) As I speak, i was breaking my brains on what to cook.. Ding Dong. There you go! Fennel Sphagetti. :) Thnx so much!LOoks awesome! shaheen, btw where in randolphville do u live? south or north.?

Priya S&S said...

I've been wanting to try fennel eversince I saw it in Nabeela's and Spicy's Blog. I guess I will have to to try it out soon.
Looks delicious Shaheen !

Happy Holidays!

Ashwini said...

Ohh I love the licorice like aroma of fennel bulbs..interesting use in pasta. So is the book great overall?

sra said...

shaheen, saw the crunchy bits on the pasta fleetingly yesterday and wondered what they could be - read the recipe today - is it very heavy, the pasta, the bread and everything?

Shaheen said...

Hi priya,I did wonder what happened. U must be busy!Do try!!

Nabee, Pasta is so versatile and if u dress it up with spice and non veg, its so yummy! Started out with my son loving it but now we all do.Thanks for the site . Have u played the game?

Indo, It is an acquired taste but do make some and u will like it.Happy Holidays!Cheers to ur selfless act.

White Polar, good to see another JAmie fan. Now i have to try that pasta. I am not a big fan of pasta and fish together though!

Hmm Asha, u are right! the aroma is sweeter that plain tomato sauce and milder.

Sandeepa, Do try and let me know. Feel free to improvise on it. I know lot of my friends who even pasta like chinese noodles!

Krithika,Its another vegetable to be added to the pantry. once u taste it all possible uses of it come to mind.

Karina, U are right! Whats not to love.

Shaheen said...

Lakshmi, whole wheat pasta will be just as good. I use half of whole wheat and half regular pasta together to disguise the taste of whole wheat.

Gattina, No snow as yet in NJ. I am enjoying the mild winter but yes still trapped in the house. its the season for eating i guess.

Surya, Thanks and do try!It is healthy!

Rp, I used to like mine overcooked but then it became too mushy so i shifted back to al dente,. it holds the sauce better.its like rice...some people like it over cooked and some like it seperated.

Meena, Thanks and do try!It is a one pot dish so I am sure u will like it.

rooma said...

Lovely post shaheen :) Pasta is the ultimate comfort food.... I am in love with italian food!!!! thanks to hubby dear :) Great recipe. Jamie oliver is a fav. too. :) Thanks for sharing this one. :)

Anonymous said...

that is one gorgeous recipe, and gorgeous pictures. i love fennel and jamie oliver.

re: whole wheat pasta, try multigrain brands like 'barilla plus'. they look and taste like white pasta, but they have a much higher fibre and wholegrain content. kids can't tell the difference.

Dr. Soumya Bhat said...

Hi .Im new to your have got a good collection here.Very nice snaps also.

Trupti said...

Looks so tempting...always been apprehensive about using Fennel though, because of its Licorice taste..but worth a try atleast once,I think...! Happy Holidays!

Shaheen said...

Ashwini, the book is good but more for casual dining and meals. i like it due to its easy crowd pleasing dishes.

Priya S&S: u have to try it.

Babli:Winter is lazy .:)So did u make it? and I live in the north.

Sra, It sounds heavy but its not.the crunchy bread is very little when compared to individual servings.And there is no cream, no cheese to leaden it up.

Rooma, It is a yummy pasta and very different from th eover tomatoey ones.

Soumya,Welcome and thanks for ur kind words. Do keep visitng!

Trupti, try it with confidence.. the licorice taste goes away while cooking.Happy Hols.

Nidhi said...

Hey Shaheen!

Beautiful creation and what a nice twist of adding fennel and tomatoes to spaghetti. Good job!

Wish you and your Family a very Happy New Year!

Cheers, Nidhi.

tasteofbeirut said...

I am going to try this! i have always wanted to try cooking with fennel besides adding it to seafood!