Fennel. I love fennel. But I haven't always been best friends with the fennel seed. Ya know, they put it in sausage. And usually when it is in my Italian sausage, I don't like it. It is like, "yum, tasty sausage"...*crunch* explosion of fennel flavor...palate destroyed. Throat on fire.
Fennel seeds also show up in some rye breads. In fact, just last weekend, I was at the grocery store deciding on what rye bread to buy for my Reubens (corned beef...St. Patty's day...close enough). I always get the dark brown loaf. Scot said he wanted a lighter rye (random). But I purposely made sure there were no stupid fennel seeds in my rye bread. It is weird!
Ok, maybe I am weird, because I know lots of people love the f. seed in both sausage and in rye bread.
In conclusion, I was reluctant to put fennel seeds in this pasta. I crushed them pretty good in the mortar and pestle. I don't know what it was that was different about using them in this pasta, but I really liked it. I thought maybe when combined with the fresh fennel, it balanced it all out. Makes me wonder...maybe I just don't like bad Italian sausage that just happens to have fennel seeds in it? Maybe the sausage makers should try crushing their fennel seeds a bit? Who knows.
Lastly, Scot loved this pasta dish. He kept saying, "this tastes just like sausage". He really likes sausage.
Spaghetti with Salami, Fennel and Tomatoes
from Happy Days with the Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver
Extra virgin olive oil
5 ounces good spicy ltalian salami, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 bulb fennel, halved and finely sliced, feathery tops reserved and chopped
32 ounce can of plum tomatoes
1 dried chili, crumbled (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb dried spaghetti or linguine
2 handfuls of stale breadcrumbs
a sprig of fresh rosemary (optional)
Pour 2 good lugs of olive oil into a pan. Add your salami and your sliced garlic. Lightly crack the fennel seeds either in a pestle and mortar or with a knife and add to the pan. Cook for 1 minute on a low heat – the fat should cook out of the salami and it should begin to get crisp. Add your sliced fennel and stir, then put the lid on the pan and increase the heat to medium. Cook for 5 minutes, then add your tomatoes and even a little dried chili if you like. Cook slowly for 25 minutes until the mixture has thickened. Season to taste.
Cook your pasta in a large pot of fast boiling salted water until al dente. While it’s cooking, make some crunchy breadcrumbs, to give this dish a great texture and crunch. Just get a couple of good handfuls of coarse breadcrumbs and fry them with 4 or 5 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil until they go crispy. Throw in some rosemary sprigs as well to give extra flavor. When your pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander and immediately toss it with your lovely tomato sauce. Serve in a large bowl and sprinkle with the green fennel tops and your crispy breadcrumbs.
(Servings: 4, Prep time: 15 min., Cook time: 25 min., Difficulty: Easy)
Shanon (taste): 7/10
Scot (taste): 9/10
Dishwashing Effort: 3/5