Spicy Spaghetti with Fennel
From the moment I saw this recipe in January’s issue of Bon Appetit it went on my list. I don’t usually eat a lot of fennel. It doesn’t occur to me to pick it up. But the photo was so alluring, and I’m a sucker for a big ol’ bowl of pasta. It sounded different from my normal cream-heavy pasta dishes, so I had to try it. And wowza, it was amazing. A touch of thick-cut bacon, fennel braised long enough to become silky and rich, and just enough spice to keep things interesting, and I was hooked. You probably will be, too.
One caveat: Be sure to use a low-salt broth for this dish. The broth reduces down a fair amount, which really concentrates the salt. This dish was verging on the edge of too salty for me, but was all the more delicious for it. If you are sensitive to salt, you might want to use less bacon and be careful about any added salt. If you, like me, would be happy with a salt lick in front of you, then you’ll like it as is, I suspect.
The original recipe calls for jalapenos. I didn’t have them, so I didn’t use them. I used crushed red pepper flakes instead, and it was plenty spicy for me.
Spicy Spaghetti with Fennel
Adapted from Bon Appetit – Makes 2 servings
- 2 slices of thick cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- a generous pinch of red pepper flakes
- a generous pinch of dried oregano or tarragon
- 1 medium fennel bulb, chopped into wedges
- about 1 cup low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
- 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- about 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- enough spaghetti for two servings
- Parmesan cheese to taste
Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is beginning to crisp. Remove from the pan to a paper towel-lined plate, and set aside.
You should have about a tablespoon of fat left in the pan. If you don’t, add a smidge of olive oil, then add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano. Saute for 30 seconds, then add in the fennel. Let it cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, so it browns just a bit and begins to soften. Add the broth and parsley, bring to a boil, and lower the heat. Let the fennel and broth simmer for 20 minutes to braise the fennel.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the spaghetti.
When the fennel is soft and the broth has reduced to about half it’s original amount, return the bacon to the pan. Season with lemon juice and a bit of salt, drain the pasta, and stir it into the skillet with the fennel mixture. Stir to coat the spaghetti and let the broth thicken a bit more. Serve with extra parsley and Parmesan cheese.
Seriously folks, this stuff was heavenly. I wanted to inhale it. I wanted to eat the whole pot in one sitting, but I did manage to restrain myself so I had enough for lunch the next day. It was even better then.