Last week I had my very first ever fennel bulb in my fridge, and, as is becoming a theme here, no clue how to use it. Neither J nor I are particularly fond of licorice, especially not in savory food. Still, aware that fennel seed is a relatively common ingredient that I already have in my spice drawer, I set about looking for a way to use it that would neither hide nor particularly showcase its licorice-like flavors.
What drew me right into this recipe was the assertion that it tasted like Italian sausage, without any Italian sausage in the recipe. Sadly, it did not. But, it did taste really good! Just not like sausage. I think it might have worked better with ground pork rather than, or in addition to, the bacon, and I even think I would add a second fennel bulb to enhance that part of the flavor. The fennel flavor really mellowed – almost too much.
Spicy Spaghetti with Fennel (2 servings)
Adapted from Serious Eats.
- 2 slices bacon, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 – 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 fennel bulb, fronds and base removed, sliced thinly
- 3/4 c. chicken broth
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 4 oz. whole-wheat spaghetti
- 1/4 – 1/2 c. grated Parmigiano
- Add bacon to skillet set over medium heat. Cook until browned, then remove and drain on a paper towel. Add a little olive oil, if desired, then add minced garlic and pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant. Add fennel and saute about 5 minutes.
- Pour in broth and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat, and cook until fennel is soft, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/2 c. of pasta water.
- Uncover skillet and continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add pasta to skillet along with bacon and Parmigiano. Toss well, adding reserved cooking water as needed to make moist and a little saucy. Plate and top with a little extra cheese.