Thursday, February 28, 2013

Spicy Spaghetti with Fennel, Pancetta & Romano Cheese

Hey Blogstalkers!

It's been quite a while since I posted a new recipe and so today I wanted to share one of my absolute favorites with you.  A somewhat-spicy, garlicky pasta with fennel and crispy pancetta.

This recipe is adapted from the January 2010 Bon Appetit magazine, which I have had a subscription to since college.  Not that I ever attempted any of the recipes back then but I would rather look at pictures of food than celebrities pumping gas (they're just like us!) any day and I loved to stare at the glossy pages and dream of the day I would have things like a stove and pans of my own.

The first time I made this recipe was with my (very literally) little sister Nicky.  She is like a very tiny version of me with much better style.  This is her with Ryan.  She is wearing like four inch heels in this picture.

Anyway, Ryan was working nights and Nicky had come to keep me company one random Tuesday and we felt like cooking.  Since Ryan wasn't home it was one of the rare occasions I could make a dish that was (almost) meatless, so Nicky and I perused the pages of all of my magazines and finally decided on this recipe.

Neither of us had ever cooked with fennel before and so the black licorice smell was off-putting and we were positive the dish would be a flop.  We reluctantly completed it and tasted the results and were floored.  It was SO delicious.  Subtly spicy and cheesy, the salt from the pancetta and the sweetness of the fennel perfectly offsetting each other.  It was instantly one of both of our favorite dishes.

Since then I have made the dish again and again.  It's actually the ONLY mostly-meatless dish Ryan tolerates for dinner.  He doesn't even ask me to make him a piece of chicken or something on the side!

I hope you all enjoy it as much as we do!

Spicy spaghetti with Fennel, Pancetta & Romano cheese

**Adapted from a recipe from the January 2010 edition of Bon Appetit Magazine**


3 oz Pancetta, chopped

3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided

4 Garlic Cloves, minced

(heaping) 1/4 c. chopped Jalapeños

2 large Fennel Bulbs, sliced vertically

1 1/2 c. low-sodium Chicken Broth

4 TBS flat leaf Parsley, divided

2 TBS Lemon juice

1 1/2 tsp Fennel Seeds, crushed (I just put them on a cutting board and press down on them with the textured side of my meat mallet.  You'll smell when they're crushed.)

1 lb Spaghetti

1 1/2 c. grated Romano Cheese

Lemon wedges for garnish.

Here is everything before I got to knife-wielding.

And here are my stand-in helpers since Nicky was busy not wanting to drive to the city just for spaghetti LAUREN.

And here is my pretty mise en place.  Ooh la la.


Saute pancetta in a skillet over medium heat until it is starting to crisp, careful not to burn it.  Remove pancetta from the skillet using a slotted spoon or spatula and place on a bed of paper towels.  Gently pat the top with another paper towel to remove some of the fat, but do not drain the pan.

Explain to your husband that Pancetta is Italian bacon but that you have no idea if that means the pigs were Italian or the butchers were Italian and that is a ridiculous question and get out of my kitchen.

 Add 1 TSP olive oil to the drippings in the pan, swirling to coat.  Add the garlic and jalapeños to the pan and saute for about 1 minute or until you can really smell the garlic.

Add the fennel to the pan and cook until it is starting to wilt and slightly darken in color, about 5-6 minutes.

Now add the chicken broth, 2 TBS of the parsley, the lemon juice and fennel seeds.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and cover.  Cook about 20 more minutes until fennel is falling-apart-tender.

In the meantime, cook the pasta, reserving a big scoop full of the cooking liquid.

Return the fennel mixture to high heat (uncovered) and cook until almost all of the liquid is absorbed, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the spaghetti to the fennel.  Mix in the remaining 2 TBS of olive oil, 1/2 c. Romano cheese and pancetta.

If the mixture is too dry, add splashes of the reserved cooking liquid.

Garnish with the remaining parsley, cheese and if you desire (I always do), an extra lemon wedge or two.