Friday, January 29, 2010

Last Night's Dinner

Am I going through ham withdrawal? Maybe. Yesterday I wanted to make spaghetti with sauteed fennel. I knew I wanted to add some fennel seeds and hot red pepper flakes to the sauce. White wine and a little heavy cream for sure. And some parsley for color. But idea seemed to lack that special something...Then I remembered the way the domestic pancetta, available in four-ounce packages across from the butter at the IGA, crisps ups so nicely in the frying pan. I thought these crisp bits would make a delicious garnish for my fennel pasta, and they did. Here's the recipe:

Spaghetti with Fennel (and Pancetta)
Serves 4 to 6

4 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
1 tablepsoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
2 fennel bulbs, stalks trimmed, sliced thin
3/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 pound spaghetti
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until just crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.
2. Add the olive oil, garlic, fennel seeds, and hot red pepper flakes to the pan and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
3. Add the fennel and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the white wine to the pan, bring to a simmer, cover, and continue to cook until the fennel is very soft, another 10 minutes or so.
4. Stir in the heavy cream, heat through, and remove the pan from the heat. Season with salt to taste.
5. While the fennel is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti until just tender. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta. Return it to the pot and stir in the fennel mixture and cheese, adding some of the reserved pasta water as needed to moisten.
6. Divide the pasta and fennel among individual bowls. Top each portion with a sprinkling of parsley and some of the crisped pancetta. Serve immediately.

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