Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pasta with fennel, tomatoes, olives and shrimp

Many Americans are only familiar with fennel as the seeds in their sweet Italian sausage, but raw fennel has become really easy to find and there are all kinds of things you can do with it. Fennel has this great fresh anise flavor that's crisp and sharp when raw, but sweet and mellow when cooked.

This recipe is from a new cookbook (gifted by a certain lovely Auntie!) called Weeknight Fresh & Fast. It's full of wonderful quick recipes all organized by season, which I love. I flipped straight to "Winter" and quickly selected this as the inaugural dish. It came together in under half and hour and was comfortingly delicious.

Do try to find San Marzano tomatoes for your sauce. I like this brand in particular. It really makes a difference, the flavor is far superior to any other canned tomatoes I've tried and they break down beautifully.

1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 large fennel bulb, core removed, and sliced thinly lengthwise (save the fronds for garnish)
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced like the fennel
pinch of red chili flakes
1 14oz can of chopped or diced San Marzano tomatoes
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and quartered lengthwise
3 tbsp dry white wine
~ 12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined

4 oz spaghetti

Put on a pot of water to boil for your spaghetti.

Drizzle a little olive oil into a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add the fennel seeds and stir for a few seconds just until fragrant, then add the fennel bulb, onion, and red chili flakes. Allow to soften and begin to brown, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes. Add the wine and let it bubble up, then also add the tomatoes and olives. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and simmer, allowing the tomatoes to break down, about another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile your water is surely boiling, so cook your spaghetti about 30 seconds shy of the package directions. Drain and set aside.

When the time is up on the sauce, add the shrimp and simmer until they are just opaque and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Toss the spaghetti through and allow to finish cooking together in the pan for the last 30 seconds or so. Garnish with fennel fronds.

Serves 2, takes half an hour.

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