Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fennel Bacon Chiocciole

Marc and I went to dinner at baci and abbracci last night with sonia and matt. I am just on an italian kick lately. Well this morning I woke up craving carbs, hence this starch on starch dish. You wouldn't normally think of putting potatoes and pasta together. But marc and I haven't really been following the rules lately so why not have this for Sunday morning brunch? Comfort food to the max. I had hoped that it would turn out like the pizzoccheri that they have at Paprika, another fave italian spot in the east village. I basically wanted to use up whatever I had lying around. The potatoes had been sitting on my kitchen table for so long that they were starting to stare at me with their growing eyes as  I would walk by.

Well the dish turned out really nicely with some sweet notes to it because I braised the fennel. I think next time I will forego adding the potatoes because they really weren't necessary. But I am going to include the process for adding the potatoes in case you are fiending for carbs like I was.

Plus, making this pasta was extra exciting because I got to try out our new pots and pans! Marc's mom bought us a beautiful new set of Demeyere cookware. This really classes up the cooking!

Serves 6.

1 lb chiocciole pasta
6 small red potatoes, washed
4 slices bacon
1 red onion
2 small fennel bulbs
6 sprigs fresh thyme
freshly grated sea salt
2 T butter
3/4 t anise seeds
freshly grated black pepper (to taste)
dash parmesan (to taste)
1 lemon (zest from entire lemon and juice from half)
1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes

1. Bring large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.

2. Slice potatoes in half and then slice them into quarter inch half moons. Place potatoes in a small pot and cover with cold water. Cover, bring to a boil, and cook until just tender. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.

3. Saute bacon until crispy in a large sauce pan. Remove bacon from pan and pat the grease off with a paper towel. Chop into very small bacon bits.

4. Chop onions and mince thyme. Cut fennel fronds off, then cut fennel in half and into small slices.

5. In the same pan that the bacon was cooked in, add the onions. Saute in the bacon fat for about two minutes or until just wilted. Add the fennel and 2 T butter. Cook until the fennel and onions start to brown. Then add 1/2 c pasta water, thyme, 1/2 t salt, and anise seeds. Reduce until the water evaporates and the vegetables have a creamy consistency. Remove from heat.

6. Stir pasta, vegetables (except potatoes), black pepper, parmesan, lemon zest and juice, bacon, and crushed red pepper flakes together. Add another 3/4 t salt. Mix. Stir in potatoes and serve immediately.

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