Pasta with Fennel Tomato Sauce

You know, I used to hate Cubism.  I used to think it was all needless complication of the visual field, just for the sake of needless complication.  I no longer think that way.  You can argue with me if you want, (assuming you even have an opinion of Cubism) but I've since come to realize that complicated looking can be extremely satisfying.  Since I'm in the middle of writing a paper filled with torturous rhetoric (actually, I hope that's not true), I'm not going to bore you here with the subtitles of shifting planes and forms that melt into space and back again.  But I will say, after all of that complicated looking, I want my food to be the opposite.
This is a photograph I took of a sculpture by Juan Gris, actually the only sculpture by Juan Gris.  It's called Harlequin and it's in Philadelphia.  I kind of like the reflections on the glass case, I like how they allow the surrounding environment to be reflected on the work.  Somehow I think Gris would like this interaction between form and space (nerd alert, I know).

Never mind that I haven't had the time or the inclination for a challenging recipe lately.  I also haven't had the appetite.  I'm sure you know what I mean.  And this recipe is for those times when you just want ingredients to combine.  Simply and easily.  Just come together, don't play games, don't expect to me to uncover layers.  

And as an aside, I'd like to nominate the conchiglie rigate, those little shells, for best shape for pasta.  I love how they fill up like little cups, wrapping themselves around pockets of sauce.  This recipe is adopted from At Home in Provence by Patricia Wells, and it is the epitome of simple, satisfying peasant cooking.  In her recipe, she uses the zest from an orange, but in keeping with the spirit of simplicity, I used a lemon since that's what I had on hand.  I'd like to try both versions, though.  Maybe you would, too.

Shells with Fennel Tomato Sauce
Adopted from At Home in Provence by Patricia Wells

Olive oil for the pan 
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 fennel bulb, diced
1, 28 oz. can diced or crushed tomatoes
Zest of 1 medium lemon
Salt and Pepper
Chopped parsley

For the sauce:

Sauté the onion over medium low heat until softened, but not browned.  Add the garlic and red pepper lakes and cook for a few minutes more until fragrant.  The garlic should not brown.

Add the fennel and stir the mixture together.  Cover, and sweat until the fennel is soft.  This will take about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and lemon zest, bring to a simmer, and cook uncovered for another 15 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  

In the meantime, cook your pasta according to package instructions.  Once cooked, drain the pasta and add it to the sauce in a large pot.  Stir so that the pasta is evenly covered.  Transfer to a serving bowl and scatter a handful of chopped parsley over the top.


* Use any shape of pasta that you want, or happen to have on hand.  No need to make extra trips.
* You can replace the zest of 1 lemon with the zest of a medium orange
* Some people use only the bulb of the fennel, but I chopped up through a bit of the stalk as well, which gave me crunchy little pieces almost like celery but tasting of anise. 
* For a slightly spicier version, I could see adding more crushed red pepper flakes, maybe even doubling it or more depending on your tolerance for heat.


Anonymous said…
I won't argue, but I'll agree. I've always been a fan of Cubism and non-euclidian geometry in modern art. I practically stalked Dr. Linda Henderson at UT prior to taking her class. Duchamp was my focus for a project way back in the day, and she was an authority on the topic. But, back to food, your pasta looks delicious!
Anonymous said…
I'm also a fan of cubism.
I'm a fan of those plates, which I've seen in several stores recently (or at least their look-alikes)
Not a huge fan of fennel, but this makes me think about giving it another shot.
Angela said…
I don't like or dislike cubism; it was completely appropriate for its time. The pasta, I like! :)
Sam said…
No arguments from me! I do like this pasta dish, especially the fennel which I love!
Dana Treat said…
I could never get into cubism, but I think one more modern art history class could have changed my mind. The pasta however is the kind of thing I crave - all the time.
Esi said…
This is such a lovely simple dish.

I can't comment on cubism because I don't know much about it :)
Hayley said…
I LOVE fennel, and this recipe sounds perfect! Thanks Andrea!
Dewi said…
Delicious, delicious... I love fennel, and addition of lemon zest make this sauce perfect.

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