Friday, December 11, 2009

Believe it or not I didn't spring forth fully formed as a foodie. I actually kind of hate that word. Foodie. It sounds pretentious and snobby, which I'm not. I do like all of the fancy food, but I also enjoy a good pop tart...I just like food. Anyway, I digress, my point was that I come from a long proud lineage of people that are into food, my Mom being one of them. Seeing as I have spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my Mom it seems only appropriate that she make an appearance on the blog. Last Monday I went over to her house to trim the tree, and we made dinner. My youngest brother Aidan was there too, an let me tell you, he hates everything we make. He subsists entirely on cottage cheese, potato chips, Turkey sandwiches, cereal and plain Frenches mustard. I kid you not, this little boy goes through a whole bottle by himself in 2 weeks. He LOVES mustard. Though his tastes are limited, his passion for the things he does like leads me to believe that sometime in the future, he too will be quite the little cook.

My family is Italian, if not so much by blood, but in heart. My Mom is 1/2 Italian, 1/2 Scottish, or something along those lines, were not talking exact science here. Her mother was Italian, and her father Scottish. But my Grandpa LOVES Italian culture, speaks the language, and for an extended period of time cooked almost exclusively Italian food. So for all practical purposes the family may as well be 100% Italian. And though we have been known to cook just about anything, we do have a bit of a soft spot for all things pasta, Parmesan, and saucy. A long standing family favorite has been a Fennel Pasta dish that has been in rotation for years now, and it is incredible. We made a dish that is a variation of that dish this week. Traditionally we have used only olive oil, chicken broth, Salt, Pepper and Parmesan, and that is amazing . But variety is the spice of life so my Mom decided it was time to do something a bit different. The result was so good I could have cried. Smoky, spicy, salty, and with just a hint of the fresh fennel. Seriously people, make this dish, it is the ultimate cold weather food.

The recipe we used was a variation on a recipe from

Roasted Fennel Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Blake Royer's recipe.
  • 2 fennel blubs, cored and sliced

  • 2 large onions, sliced

  • 8 garlic cloves chopped

  • 1/3 c. Olive Oil

  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes

  • 2 tbl whole fennel seeds

  • 1 can whole tomatoes (you are going to need to crush these)

  • 1 lb Fusili pasta

  • 1/2 cup lightly sauteed panchetta

  • Salt and pepper to taste-Remember that panchetta is VERY salty. Use a bit less than you might expect that you need.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Mix together the onion, oil, chili flakes, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Place them in a Pyrex and toss them into the oven. Allow time to roast for 15 minutes, and toss them at least once.

Heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet, add garlic and suttee until soft, about 3 minutes

In a sauce pan heat the crushed tomatoes, and add the garlic

Boil a pot of water with a bit of salt. Add the pasta and allow to cook for as long as the box directs, or to your preference.

After fifteen minutes of roasting the fennel, add the tomatoes, mixing a bit in the dish. Sprinkle the panchetta on top. Put the dish back into the oven and allow to roast for about 5-10 minutes more. The fennel is done when it is browning and very soft.

Drain the pasta and be sure to save about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot and stir in the tomato and fennel sauce. Add pasta water until the sauce is the consistency you would like it to be. If it looks fine with no pasta water, leave it, if it is too thick or not distributing well, add the water.

Serve the pasta on warm plates with generous amounts of Parmesan on top.


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