I am much taken with the addition of a sprinkle of this or that on pasta before serving - fresh grated Parmesan or Pecorino, a dollop of pesto, a few toasted pine nuts, chopped parsley - they all add a new dimension. A change in texture, an intensity of flavour, a delightful surprise. Zing!
My pasta for the week this week was fennel spaghetti - fennel sausage, fennel bulb, fennel seeds - fennel three ways if you will. Each version intensifies and rounds out the others, each element retaining its own autonomy at the same time. Needed contrast though to really make the dish shine. Thought initially grated Parmesan but that didn't quite taste right in my head. I wanted a crackle of texture as well as flavour - pane grattato seemed like a better match.
But I wanted to have a go at a challenge to use whole grain cereal in a recipe. The man had first crack at this particular challenge and added shredded wheat to a strawberry smoothie - no idea what possessed him. Figured if toasted breadcrumbs worked a treat as a topping then crushed shredded wheat might well do the same. Or it might be disgusting!
I roughly crushed a couple of shredded bricks, finely chopped that heavenly duo rosemary and garlic, then heated olive oil, warmed the aromatics, added the shredded wheat, stirred to combine and hoped. Tried a it and it wasn't bad. Added a little salt and pepper. And it was good. Cooled and liberally added to the spaghetti it really added to the dish.
Fennel Spaghetti with a Crispy Topping
Serves 3 generous dinners or 2 for dinner and plenty for lunchboxes next day
4 Italian fennel sausages each cut into 4 or five rings with the skin removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 scant teaspoon chilli flakes
1 large fennel bulb, base thinly sliced, stalks and fronds chopped and set to one side
1 tablespoon falt leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juiceSalt and fresh ground black pepper
For the topping2 shredded wheat 'bricks' roughly crushed
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 small sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Make the topping first. Simply warm the oil in a small pan, add the garlic and rosemary and cook gently, stirring, for a minute or so till it begins to smell divine. Add the crushed shredded wheat and combine well with the aromatic oil, stirring till the shredded wheat is well coated and crispy. Season with salt and pepper, take off the heat and set to one side.
For the sauce, heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the sausages and cook over a medium heat till the meat is nicely caremalised and breaking up a little. Remove from the pan with a slotted spooon. Add the garlic and chilli to the oil in the skillet and fry gently for a minute. Toss in the fennel and cook for a few minutes till the fennel starts to soften.
Add the lemon juice, parsley and a couple of tablespoons of water and bring to the boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.