You probably wouldn't know it from this blog, but I love spaghetti. When I was younger, my favorite food was spaghetti bolognese, but since I've grown up, my diet has changed it's focus to lighter dishes, a lot less meat, and not so much spaghetti. While I still love a good pasta dish, I hardly ever choose it when I go out because I'd rather have something more exciting, something I couldn't easily whip up at home.
The last time I ordered pasta (pappardelle alla bolognese) was at Sfoglia, a wonderful Italian restaurant with locations in New York City and Nantucket, and it did not disappoint. Neither did the rest of the meal, which included mussels in a tomato broth, my first arancini (SO good), homemade Italian cookies, gelato, and a goat cheese and berry tart, but I'll stop bragging.
Anyway, the point of all this is that I haven't made or eaten spaghetti in a long time. It's not often that a pasta dish catches my attention, but this one did. I saw the recipe in last months issue of Bon Appétit and though it's relatively simple, it includes a lot of flavors that complement each other nicely. There's the anise-flavored bite of the fennel (bulb and seeds), brightness of the lemon juice, hit of spice from the chiles, saltiness of the pancetta, pungency of the garlic, and creaminess of the Pecornio. If you're looking for a simple yet inventive pasta dish, this just might be it.
Spicy Spaghetti with Fennel and Herbs
I made some small changes such as using less pasta, less cheese, and less oil (as usual all my changes are below and you can click the link fro the original recipe). The original recipe also said to use packaged pancetta but I'd suggest buying a hunk of it from the butcher if you can, that way you can cut thicker chunks. I also added sriracha to mine at the end because it wasn't quite spicy enough for me.
Adapted from Bon Appétit
3 ounces pancetta (Italian bacon), chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 large red jalapeño chiles, seeded, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
2 large fennel bulbs, stalks trimmed, cut into thin wedges with some core attached
1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed fennel seeds
3/4 pound spaghetti [I used whole wheat]
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano or Pecorino Toscano cheese, divided
1- 2 tablespoons hot sauce (optional)
PreparationSauté pancetta in large skillet over medium heat until pancetta is golden. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels. Add 1 tablespoon oil to drippings in skillet. Add garlic and chiles; sauté over medium heat 1 minute. Add fennel; cook until beginning to soften, 5 minutes. Mix in broth, 2 tablespoons parsley, lemon juice, and fennel seeds. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until fennel is very tender, 20 minutes (I did not cook mine this long to leave a little bite). Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook pasta until tender; drain. Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot.
Uncover skillet with fennel mixture and return to high heat. Cook until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 4 minutes. Add fennel to pasta. Stir in 1 tablespoon oil, 1/4 cup cheese, and pancetta. Add cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if dry. Toss pasta; transfer to serving bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons parsley over. Serve with extra cheese.