Weeknight kitchen: Pasta with Fennel and Roasted Tomatoes

It’s not all pickled rosehips and sous vide, chez Nom’s. Here’s something that we concocted last night that makes good use of the end-of-summer bounty.

Get yourself some plum tomatoes; about 4 per person. Halve them lengthwise, and lay them cut-side-down in a roasting pan you’ve coated with a few generous glugs of olive oil. Roast them in a 450’F oven for about half an hour, till their skins have bubbled and browned like this:

Meanwhile, chop some red onion or shallot (about 1/3 cup for 2 people) and slice some fennel (half of a large bulb or its equivalent in tiny ones, as below) lengthwise into 1/4-inch batons.

Take a couple of thick slices of bacon or the equivalent in pancetta or guanciale, and slice it into 1/4 inch batons as well. I just finished making some cured-but-unsmoked bacon, so I used that. If you’re using bacon, you might consider blanching it for 30 seconds in boiling water to remove some of the smokiness and help it crisp up.

When the tomatoes are browned and happy, remove them from the oven. Wait a couple of minutes, the slide the skins right off and discard them. Start boiling your pasta water. Get yourself a big saucepan and add a film of olive oil. Fry the bacon over medium heat until it’s crispy. Remove the bacon and drain all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Now add the fennel and onions and a little salt, and crank the heat to get them a bit brown. Then lower the heat and back to medium and continue cooking until they’re tender-crisp. Add maybe 1/4 cup of dry white wine, boil that down to a syrup, and dump the pan contents into a bowl. Replace them with the the tomatoes and the olive oil / tomato juice liquid from the roasting pan. Crush them a bit, then add the fennel, onion and bacon back to the pan. You can add some chopped fresh thyme if you like, and some black pepper and chili pepper flakes.

Drain your pasta, first reserving a half-cup of the pasta water. Use it to water down your sauce if it looks too paste-like. Introduce the pasta to the sauce, let them bubble together for a minute or two, stirring frequently to coat the pasta with the sauce. And plate, being sure to splatter the sauce around. It’s a weeknight, after all.

Top with grated parmesan, and enjoy.

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