Fennel is a wonderful vegetable that is too often neglected outside Italy, thankfully though it is beginning appear a little more often in UK supermarkets. It has a mild aniseed flavour and goes particularly well seafood, pork and chicken. I know some of my recipes are weekend affairs due to their complexity, but this one is definitely a midweek 30 minute or less. In the UK, the fennel season runs from June until October.
600g (1lb 8oz) wild mushroom tortellini
1 Large garlic clove finely chopped
500g (1lb 2oz) baby plum tomatoes
75ml (1/3 cup) Red wine
50ml (1/4 cup) cold water
2 Bulbs Fennel
100grams (4oz) Black cured olives
75g (3oz) thinly sliced pepperoni
1 level teaspoon sugar
50g grated Grand Padano cheese *optional
1teaspoon of chopped flat parsley
- Heat a medium sized thick bottom saucepan and add 1 Tbsp olive oil and the plum tomatoes.
- Stir occasionally and when the tomatoes begin to break up add the garlic, wine and water.
- Turn the heat down to low and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally.
- Bring a medium-sized pan of water to a rolling boil and season lightly with salt and the sugar.
- While that’s heating trim a wafer thin slice off the bottom of the fennel bulbs and cut any woody storks off, basically leaving you with the bulb.
- Cut each bulb into 6-8 even sized wedges and then cook in the water.
- Turn the heat down and simmer until the fennel is tender about 5-7minutes.
- Drain the fennel, drizzle with the remaining oil and keep warm.
- Add the pepperoni and cured black olives to the sauce and season
- Follow the instruction to cook the tortellini then drain well.To Serve
Combine the pasta, sauce and fennel and parsley then toss and serve into warm bowls. Offer the cheese at the table.
When you have more time you could try roasting the fennel to give the dish a wonderful caramelised edge to the dish. You could substitute the pepperoni with chorizo if you prefer. The pepperoni doesn’t need to be too spicy.
You could try other kinds of tortellini, but I think you’ll find the wild mushroom works best. I also like serving garlic bread made from onion baguettes. Definitely use the cured black olives because they add a wonderful earthy note to the dish. Leave the stones in, just let your guest know. And of course if you are vegetarian you can just leave off the pepperoni.