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February 14, 2009 / Tony

Spaghetti with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes and Caramelized Fennel



I’ll just be up front with you, this recipe is awesome.  Take a look:

Spaghetti with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes and Caramelized Fennel, from Saveur, Number 117

1 lb roma or plum tomatoes

4 T extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp each Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 bulb fennel, cut into matchsticks

1 red onion, sliced

3 fresno chiles, finely chopped

1/2 lb spaghetti

 2 T finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 cup toasted bread crumbs

Heat oven to 250 degrees F.  Halve tomatoes lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, leaving the middle “column” intact.  In a bowl, toss the tomatoes with the sugar, salt, pepper, and 1 T olive oil.  Arrange tomatoes on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, cut side down.  Rost until very soft, about 3 hours.

Heat 2 t olive oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat.  Add fennel and brown for 10 minutes.  Add onion, cook unti soft, about 8 minutes more.  Add chiles and cook for 2 minutes.  Chop and add tomatoes. 

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook pasta until al dente.  Strain but reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.  Add pasta and the water to the tomato mixture, toss.  Put skillet over high heat.  Add the parsely and remaining oil.  Cook for 2-3 minutes and adjust the seasonings.  Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and serve immediately.

OK, not the easiest recipe in the world.  It takes a bit of time, a bit of knifework, and a good-quality skillet.  But, it is well-worth the effort.  If anything, it can introduce you to the wonderful world of roasted tomatoes.  The method in the recipe makes delicious tomatoes out of even the most out-of-season tomatoes by concentrating the natural flavors and adding some caramelization.  The culinary uses for such tomatoes are endless:  compound butters, salad dressings, spreads, sauces, etc.  If you haven’t, you should give them a try.  But I digress.

What makes this recipe really work is how well the ingredients complement each other.  The roasted, slightly caramelized tomatoes are a perfect match for the slightly sweetened fennel.  The sweetness of those two ingredients are tempered by the red onion and the chiles.  The bread crumbs add some needed crunch.  The end result is a little sweet, a little hot, a little crunchy, and very much complex.  It’s really some of the best pasta I have ever had.  Do yourself a favor and give this one a try.

A few other notes:  1)  We used English muffin bread  bread crumbs for this recipe and they were excellent.  2)  Don’t be too afraid of the 3 fresno chiles in the recipe for two servings.  With the cooking and their apparent mildness, there’s not an excessive amount of heat.  Enjoy!  Here’s the final product:


One Comment

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  1. Monique / Feb 16 2009 6:33 pm

    Try this recipe with Al Dente Garlic Parsley Fettuccine, the brand that cooks in just 3 minutes and tastes exactly like homemade. Their blog is http://www.aldentecanoodler

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