I had fennel left over after making fennel polpette using only the greens. I decided to use the fennel to make a Sicily-inspired pasta dish with raisins, pine nuts, and saffron. When I made this for the first time, I thought it was a bit bland. Now I added sugar and parmigiano and the result is very tasty. The flavors of the raisins, saffron, and fennel work together very well and are supported by the pine nuts and parmigiano. This is a nice vegetarian pasta dish that I will make again. I am not sure if it resembles any traditional Sicilian pasta dish.
For 2 servings
400 grams (.9 lb) fennel
1 shallot, chopped
20 grams (2 Tbsp) pine nuts
20 grams (2 Tbsp) raisins, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes and drained
20 grams (1 1/2 Tbsp) sugar
120 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground white pepper
150 grams (.33 lb) penne pasta
1 envelope (.1 gram) powdered saffron
3 handfulls of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut the bottom and the greens off the fennel bulbs, cut them in halves vertically, and slice them into 1 cm (1/2″) slices.
Parboil the fennel for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, sauté the shallot in the olive oil until soft and fragrant.
Take the fennel out of the boiling water and allow excess water to drain away.
Add the pasta to the water in which the fennel has been cooked. Add some salt as well and cook the pasta al dente according to package instructions.
Add the fennel to the shallots and sauté for a minute over high heat.
Add the sugar and sauté for another minute.
Lower the heat to medium. Add the raisins and pine nuts.
Add the white wine and stir. Season with salt and freshly ground white pepper.
Cover and cook over medium low heat for about 8 minutes or until the fennel is tender but firm to the bite, stirring now and then.
Add the powdered saffron.
Stir until the saffron has dissolved.
Drain the pasta and add it to the fennel with two handfulls of freshly grated parmigiano.
Toss to mix.
Serve on warm plates, sprinkled with the remaining parmigiano.