Jan 8
2010

Spicy Spaghetti with Fennel, Pancetta & Parmesan Cheese Recipe

Spicy Spaghetti with Fennel, Pancetta & Parmesan Cheese Recipe

My husband knows the way to my heart. Yesterday was my birthday and did I ever get spoiled. Not with some big-ticket item from a store, but with thoughtful, meaningful gestures that let me know he was really thinking about what I enjoy. I won’t bore you with the blow-by-blow of the day, but let’s just say that Brie and sushi were involved. As I said, the man knows the way to my heart. Even with all of these treats, I still had a craving for a comforting pasta dish. While Spaghetti with Creamy Mascarpone Sauce, Italian Sausage, and Pine Nuts certainly would have fit the bill, I was in the mood for trying something new. Reading through an issue of Bon Appetit Magazine several weeks prior, this spicy spaghetti dish had leapt off the page. Packed with braised fennel, pancetta, and red chiles, a bowl of this light and flavorful pasta effortlessly satisfied my craving.

Place a large skillet over medium heat and add 3 ounces, chopped, pancetta (Italian bacon).


Sauté pancetta until golden, remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon, and drain on a paper towel.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the drippings in the pan. The pancetta I used didn’t produce much in the way of drippings, so I used 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add 3 garlic cloves, chopped, and 2 large red jalapeño chiles, seeded and finely chopped. Sauté for 1 minute.

Trim the stalks from 2 large fennel bulbs, and cut each bulb into thin wedges, keeping some of the core intact. Add the fennel to the skillet and cook until the fennel begins to soften, about 5 minutes.


Stir in 1 3/4 cups low-salt chicken broth, 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, and 2 teaspoons crushed fennel seeds. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet, and cook until the fennel is very tender, 20 to 30 minutes.


Remove the skillet from the heat and season with salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 pound (16 oz.) spaghetti and cook until al dente. Before draining the pasta, scoop out and reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain pasta and return it to the pot.

Place the skillet with the fennel mixture over high heat, remove the lid, and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Pour the fennel mixture over the pasta. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, and pancetta. Toss the pasta and add the pasta cooking water, 1/4 cup at a time, if the pasta needs more moisture. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer pasta to serving bowl, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley, and serve with additional grated Parmesan cheese.


Other fennel recipes:

Smitten Kitchen’s Fennel, Prosciutto & Pomegranate Salad
Kitchen Unplugged’s Black Spaghetti with Shrimp, Artichoke, Fennel & Olive
Kalyn’s Kitchen’s Napa Cabbage Slaw with Carrots & Fennel-Dijon Dressing
FatFree Vegan Kitchen’s Dried Fava Bean & Fresh Fennel Soup with Polenta

Spicy Spaghetti with Fennel, Pancetta & Parmesan Cheese
Adapted from Bon Appétit Magazine

3 ounces pancetta (Italian bacon), chopped
3-4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 large red jalapeño chiles, seeded, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
2 large fennel bulbs, stalks trimmed, cut into thin wedges with some core intact
1 3/4 cups low-salt chicken broth
4 tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp crushed fennel seeds
Salt and pepper
1 lb. (16 oz.) spaghetti
1 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Place a large skillet over medium heat and add pancetta. Sauté pancetta until golden, remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon, and drain on a paper towel.

Add 1 tbsp olive oil to the drippings in the pan. If pancetta doesn’t produce much in the way of drippings, use 2 tbsp olive oil. Add garlic and jalapeño chiles. Sauté for 1 minute. Add the fennel to the skillet and cook until the fennel begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley, lemon juice, and crushed fennel seeds. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet, and cook until the fennel is very tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and season with salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 pound (16 oz.) spaghetti and cook until al dente. Before draining the pasta, scoop out and reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain pasta and return it to the pot.

Place the skillet with the fennel mixture over high heat, remove the lid, and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Pour the fennel mixture over the pasta. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, and pancetta. Toss the pasta and add the pasta cooking water, 1/4 cup at a time, if the pasta needs more moisture. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer pasta to serving bowl, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley, and serve with additional grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6.

Printable recipe

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Barbara Bakes January 8, 2010 at 5:24 am

Happy Birthday! Glad you have a wonderful day! The pasta sounds wonderful.

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2 Divina Pe January 8, 2010 at 6:08 am

This pasta dish looks soooo good. Belated Happy Birthday.

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3 Ruth January 8, 2010 at 10:56 am

What a great way to cook fennel. Im never quite sure what to do with it, but this certainly is a great recipe!

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4 Cristie January 8, 2010 at 3:17 pm

I've just been introduced to fennel this year and found it to be lovely. My neighbor grows it in his garden and his wife will not use it, so it is now all mine! I'll bookmark this for next summer. Happy Belated Birthday!

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5 Kalyn January 8, 2010 at 3:45 pm

I'm glad to hear you had a great birthday. You deserve it!

Do you believe I have never once cooked fennel? I have no idea why, because I love it. This looks delish!

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6 Allison Arevalo January 8, 2010 at 3:59 pm

What is it about pancetta that just makes everything better? I love that it doesn't overpower other ingredients like regular bacon seems to do. It also feels healthier somehow, but I think I'm making that up. Great recipe, and Happy Birthday!

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7 Tommy Salami January 8, 2010 at 4:05 pm

This sounds delicious and I look forward to adapting it myself :)

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8 Frieda January 8, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Happy Birthday! Congrats on trying something new and sharing it!

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9 Emily Ziegler January 8, 2010 at 6:02 pm

That looks delicious!!!

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10 Vegetable Matter January 8, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Beautiful pic!

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11 Kristin (KrisKishere) January 8, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Happy Belated Birthday!! That pasta looks delicious. I love pancetta and fennel together :)

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12 Maria January 8, 2010 at 6:48 pm

I Hope you had a great b-day. Love the fennel in this recipe.

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13 Tasty Eats At Home January 8, 2010 at 6:56 pm

What a delicious dish! Happy Birthday!

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14 Tasty Trix January 8, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Happy Birthday!! That is a very interesting use of fennel, I am intrigued.

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15 pegasuslegend January 8, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Happy Birthday….glad you had a great day! This looks terrific….are you going to do anymore tv segments? its was so cool!

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16 bonnie January 8, 2010 at 11:30 pm

What a great Bday, aren't hubbys great? Love the pasta dish.. Happy Bday!!

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17 Cookin' Canuck January 9, 2010 at 12:44 am

Thank you so much for all of the comments and birthday wishes!

I had the leftovers of this for lunch today and it was just as good the second time around.

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18 Claudia January 9, 2010 at 5:20 am

Happy birthday – glad it was grand. The recipe is also splendid. Pancetta? Fennel? Perfect for winter. Comforting and tasty!

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19 The Chickenless Chick January 9, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Happy birthday :) Beautiful pasta dish. Love the red chiles in there!

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20 wasabi prime January 9, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Aw, sounds like a sweet birthday — brie and sushi equals true love! And this dish is a total birthday knockout — great flavors and ingredients. Especially the added kick of spice!

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21 April Cavin January 10, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Sounds like you had a wonderful birthday! Thanks for sharing the wonderful recipe, too :)

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22 Family Cuisine Food And Recipe January 12, 2010 at 2:15 am

Thank you for sharing. Cheers!

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23 Katerina January 14, 2010 at 4:41 pm

This looks amazing! I just love fennel, but I don't know that I have ever put it in a pasta dish before, silly me!

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