Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fennel Spaghetti with Crispy Topping

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

300g spaghetti
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 juice
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

For the topping

2 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.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. When al dente, put a ladle of the cooking water into a bowl then drain and rinse.

Take the lid from the fennel, increase the heat and add the cooked sausage, thinly sliced fennel stalks and fronds. Stir well and season.

Add the pasta to the fennel and mix thoroughly to combine, using some of the reserved pasta water if you need to loosen it a little.

Serve in deep bowls liberally sprinkled with the crispy topping.


Reena, Coconut Raita said...

Oh yes - this looks marvellous. I love sausage and I love fennel. Yumtastic!

Valentina said...

I have never seen fennel sausage. Well, i have got myself a little chore.

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

This sounds fantastic!

bron said...

It was indeed gorgeous - and I loved it cold next day at lunch.

Valentina most Italian deli's sell fennel sausages, they are great simply grilled with salad and they really shine in this dish.

Michele said...

Oh, I love both fennel sausage and sausage pasta so the combination sounds absolutely perfect! I'll put a trip to our Italian deli on the to do list for this weekend...

azelia said...

just in case you miss it your blog made it to my entry on "Just Because I Haven't Posted..."

Valentina said...

Italian delis, Bron? will check it out.thanks a lot.

Charlie said...

Hi Bron I've just got home from a very, very long journey via several airports and airlines. I seem to have been eating food in plastic boxes for days! What I really want to eat right this minute is this....

bron said...

Charlie I think it would be the perfect meal to end your run of plastic food.