Sicilian Style Pasta with Fennel, Tomatoes, Onion and Mint
I was recently invited to demo a recipe for my CSA farm harvest celebration, and the farmer Lora asked me to do something with fennel because many of the CSA members were unsure of how to use fennel. Raw, it has a pronounced licorice taste, and is great in salads like my Grapefruit and Fennel Salad with Avocado. But cooked it takes on a sweeter flavor, one that I actually prefer. You can use it in soups or a gratin, or simply roast it.I had a crowd to serve, and a vegetarian pasta that featured the fennel and a bunch of other things from the farm seemed like a perfect idea. These are classic flavors of Sicily, and you can even add some cooked swordfish chunks to this pasta dish like you might find in Sicily. I fully intended to capture a picture of the finished dish, done in that large pan over a propane tank, but in the effort to serve 60 hungry CSA members, I forgot. If you snap a picture of your dish, can you send it to me?
- 2 medium fennel bulbs
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- Salt and pepper
- 2 pounds cherry tomatoes
- 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup packed fresh mint leaves
- 1 pound short shaped pasta of choice, cooked al dente,
- ½ cup pasta cooking water reserved
- Extra virgin olive oil, to taste
- ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
- Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, for serving
- Core the fennel and thinly slice the bulb only. Remove some of the fronds from the stalk and chop them until you have about 2 tablespoons; reserve the fronds for garnishing the dish.
- Add 2 tablespoons of olive to a large skillet over medium high heat and add the sliced fennel and onion; season with salt and pepper and sauté until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and garlic and continue cooking until the tomatoes break down slightly, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the mint, cooked pasta, and a little of the reserved cooking water to the pan and stir gently for a minute to wilt the mint. Pour onto a platter, drizzle with fresh olive oil, top with toasted almonds and cheese, and garnish with the fennel fronds before serving.