Penne w/Roasted Tomatoes, Brocolini & Fennel

This recipe was related to me by my co-worker, Peggy. I ran into her at Whole Foods Market the other day. We were talking about good food and foods that help you feel better when you are sick. She told me about this recipe and I was taken with it because it uses two ingredients that I don't use enough when I cook - fennel & brocolini. How refreshing, and it doesn't use onions - because the fennel acts as the aromatic veg - adding a whole other dimension of flavor. I haven't tasted this dish, yet, but I can taste how it would come together in my head. The fennel with the slight under-currents of anise, and the sweet yet bitter taste of brocolini. Sweet, nutty & smokey roasted tomatoes and garlic. And add the bit of heat from the red pepper flakes. Perfect! Penne, rigatoni, Ziti, any sort of short, shaped pasta would work. The pasta should have texture and a toothsome quality to it. Spaghetti would be too dull, not adding enough bite to the dish, even though it is composed of bits and chunks of vegetables. I think this would hold up well as a cold dish too - or at least room temperature. Add more pepper flakes, salt & pepper to amp up the seasonings. Cold or warm foods need a bit more flavor to come alive, otherwise their coldness dulls your taste buds and the food tastes flavorless.

Penne with Roasted Tomatoes, Brocolini & Fennel Ingredients:

  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil - Divided
  • 6 to 8 Plum Tomatoes - cut in half
  • 4 - 6 Garlic cloves - peeled & crushed
  • 1 Small Bulb Fennel - sliced thin
  • 1 Bunch Brocolini - cut into 1-2 inch sized pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/2 Pound Penne - Cooked
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400. Cut tomatoes in half and peel & crush garlic. Drizzle some olive oil over the tomatoes and garlic. Roast in oven until the tomatoes collapse into themselves and the garlic becomes caramelized - about 40 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Lightly sauté the fennel and the brocolini until the fennel turns translucent & the brocolini turns bright green and is knife tender - about 5 minutes. Stir in the red pepper flakes to release their heat and "bloom". Cover and set aside.
  3. Cook Penne, drain and keep warm. Reserve 1 cup cooking water.
  4. When the tomatoes and garlic are roasted, rough chop or pulse quickly in a food processor just to make a chunky sauce. Add this sauce to the sautéed fennel & brocolini. Top the cooked penne with the tomato/fennel sauce and season to taste with salt & pepper. If sauce is too thick, thin with some of the reserved pasta cooking water. Heat the sauce in the sauté pan to reduce and tighten slightly. Serve with freshly grated cheese.

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