I am an extreme vegetable lover. Truly, I don’t think there’s a single vegetable that I won’t eat. My friends know this, so when they wind up with a vegetable that they don’t like or don’t know what to do with, it frequently winds up on my doorstep. Recently, one of my friends got a big ol’ fennel bulb in her CSA delivery, + not being a fennel lover, asked if I wanted it. Uh, YES! I went to twitter for ideas on what to do with it (raw in a salad? shaved on a sandwich? baked into a casserole?) + my friend Amanda said that she loves fennel paired with tomatoes + pasta. Pasta is one of my favorite foods, + we grow tons of tomatoes in our garden, so I was sold on her idea. I found a fabulous-looking recipe for Spaghetti with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes and Caramelized Fennel, + got cookin’.
And y’all, this turned out wonderfully delicious, with an amazing combination of flavors + textures. The onions, garlic, and fennel – which can all be quite potent if served raw – mellow and sweeten up beautifully in the cooking process. Added to some pasta, the delightfully flavorful oven-roasted tomatoes, some spicy chiles, + topped with tasty parmesan + toasted breadcrumbs for texture, this dish is one of the most delicious vegetarian pasta dishes that I’ve had. Even my husband, who’s not a huge fan of meatless dishes or fennel, said that he loved it. I will absolutely be adding this to the regular dinner rotation, especially this time of year when tomatoes + fennel are in season locally!
Spaghetti With Oven-Roasted Tomatoes + Caramelized Fennel
serves 2-3, adapted from Saveur
1 lb. plum/roma tomatoes
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 tsp. sugar
kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper
1 bulb fennel, cut into matchsticks
1 onion, very thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 fresno chiles, finely chopped (OR substitute 2 teaspoons chili pepper paste, OR 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper)*
1/2 lb. spaghetti
2 tbsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
the juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese (plus extra for serving)
1 cup toasted breadcrumbs
*The chiles, chili pepper paste, or crushed red pepper will make this dish medium-spicy. If you want a milder dish, use half of the chiles/chili pepper paste/red pepper. Or, omit altogether if you want a completely spicy-free dish.
1. Heat oven to 250˚. Core and halve tomatoes lengthwise; scoop out seeds. In a bowl, combine tomatoes, 1 Tbsp. oil, sugar, salt, and pepper; toss. Arrange tomatoes, cut side down, on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet; roast until very soft, about 3 hours.
2. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add fennel; brown for 10 minutes. Add onion; cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic + chiles (OR chili pepper paste OR crushed red pepper); cook for 2 minutes. Chop and add roasted tomatoes to the skillet, cook for 1 minute more; set skillet aside.
3. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, about 8 minutes. Strain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Add pasta and its water to tomato mixture; toss. Put skillet over high heat; add parsley, lemon juice, and remaining 1 Tbsp. oil; cook for 2–3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and breadcrumbs, and serve.