Oddly enough, this sophisticated recipe's complementary trio of ingredients -- pungent herb, anise-y vegetable and licorice liqueur -- does not add up to flavor overload. The components are quick-braised, then reduced to a chunky sauce in the food processor, providing a nice alternative to tomato-based pasta options.
If you would rather not cook with alcohol, gently warm 5 tablespoons of nonalcoholic wine and 1 whole star anise in a small saucepan over low heat for 5 minutes. Let sit for 3 minutes, then add to the recipe where the Pernod is called for.
Serve with a salad of soft butter lettuce.
- 6 medium shallots
- 20 sage leaves
- 3 medium or 2 large fennel bulbs
- 5 tablespoons Pernod (may substitute ouzo, sambuca or arak)
- 5 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces dried or fresh tagliatelle pasta (may substitute pappardelle or thin egg noodles)
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.
Trim and peel the shallots, then coarsely chop them along with the sage leaves. Place the mixture in a Dutch oven or medium, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid.
Discard the tough outer layers and cores of the fennel bulbs (reserve the fronds for another use, if desired); coarsely chop the remaining fennel (there should be about 8 cups) and add to the Dutch oven or pot along with the Pernod, water, butter and oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper, stir to combine, and cover. Place in the oven to cook for 10 minutes. Check to make sure the fennel is not sticking; add Pernod or water as needed so the vegetables are well coated. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
During the last 15 minutes of cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the tagliatelle, cook according to package directions and drain, reserving 3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water. Toast the pine nuts in a small dry skillet over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, shaking them a few times to keep them from burning. Remove from the heat.
Transfer the vegetables to a food processor along with any remaining liquid; pulse over the course of 15 seconds or just long enough to combine the ingredients as a sauce without pureeing them. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Combine the pasta, sauce, cooking water and pine nuts in a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese; serve hot.
Adapted from "In Season: Cooking with Vegetables and Fruits," by Sarah Raven (Universe, 2008).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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