Fennel can be a tough sell for people. Familiar only with the strong anise flavor of raw fennel, many people are unfamiliar with the way cooking mellows its flavor and makes it more luxurious. It’s a staple of my cooking classes in Italy, and I’ve never known anyone to not be won over.
In this preparation its flavor is paired with scallions and fresh tomatoes. By all means, substitute onions or leeks as necessary, and high-quality canned tomatoes are fine too. Just be sure to include as much hot pepper as you can stand.
Pasta with Fennel and Tomatoes (Serves 2)
Begin by chopping about a 1/4 cup of scallions or onions or leeks and gently sauté with a generous bit of high-quality olive oil for a minute or two until some aroma is released.
Add about a cup of fennel, diced or in slivers as you prefer. Season with salt and saute at a lively clip until the fennel is lightly browned, about 5 minutes or so.
Add about a cup of tomatoes, fresh or canned, and season with tomatoes with salt and hot pepper, as much as you can stand. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so until the tomatoes are reduced and saucy, adding water as necessary if the pan is too dry.
Meanwhile, cook about 100 grams pasta until al dente in a pot of properly salted water (1 to 2 tablespoons per 4 quarts). Drain and toss with the sauce quickly in the pan, and serve garnished with a little bit of fennel fronds.