In the midst of prepping last week’s Spring Training Granola, I stopped to marvel at our stand mixer. It was actually one of our first joint purchases, made relatively soon after we met and used at the weekend house we shared upstate with another friend, where we filled a few winters with cook-and-bake-a-thons in the group friendly kitchen. During those years, when Spring would finally come around and the ratio of time spent indoors vs outdoors would inevitably shift, we were by design inclined towards quicker meals. (Or was it, once the weekend was over, regardless of season, we just had to get dinner on the table much faster? I’ll go with the former!) Either way, the ritual of dining and enjoying remained fully intact.
It was the stand mixer and the memory of many recipes written when that appliance was still a new tool that made me recall this weeknight home-run. It was Paul’s invention, after we’d gone on a hiking trip and brought sardines for lunch (if you’re gagging or raising eyebrows right now, I did too once, until I tried them and was sold). Here I’ve used tuna as it is milder and allows the fresh fennel and lemon to really shine. These seasonal flavors go exceptionally well together – it’s no coincidence that there are so many fennel and citrus recipes out there, especially now. I added capers to bring some tempered brininess back into the fold.
Aside from the flavor and lean protein, the beauty of this dish is that it’s ready in twenty minutes and transports you to the Adriatic Coast, even after a grueling PT sesh (me today) or from chilly upstate New York…
Pasta with Fennel, Capers, Tuna & Lemon
Hands-On Time: 18-20 Minutes
Kitchen Equipment: Medium saucepan or frying pan, large pot for cooking pasta, colander, large stirring spoon, lemon zester or microplane, sharp knife, cutting board.
- 1 Six – Eight Oz jar or can good quality Tuna Olive Oil (I love the Tonnino brand) or for stronger flavor, Sardines in Olive Oil
- 1 Small Fennel Bulb, thinly sliced
- 1 Large Garlic clove, smashed & minced
- 1/4 Tsp Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 15 Oz Can Whole Peeled Tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp White Wine or Vermouth
- Zest from one Lemon
- Juice from 1/2 Lemon
- 1 Tbsp Capers (omit if using Sardines)
- 1/4 Cup Toasted Breadcrumbs
- Coarsely Chopped Fennel Fronds
- Parmesan Cheese
- 1/2 Box of Spaghetti or Linguine
- Assemble all measured and prepared ingredients and tools within arms reach of the stovetop.
- Set pasta water to boil in large pot.
- Drain about 1 Tbsp oil from the tuna or sardine can into the frying pan, over medium heat.
- Add the fennel and sauté until turning golden, about five minutes
- Add the garlic and continue to sauté, three – five minutes more
- Add the red pepper flakes and stir until fragrant, about one minute
- Add the tomatoes, juice & sauce included, plus the fish, leaving the fish in large chunks. (The chunks will reduce down as you stir normally and generally continue through the steps – breaking them down at this phase will create a mushy sauce.) Cook over medium – low heat, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced.
- Add the wine, again stirring occasionally until liquid is reduced.
- Add the capers, lemon zest and juice, stir once more to incorporate and cover to keep warm.
- Drop pasta into boiling water and cook per the package instructions – fine of course to do this simultaneously as you cook the sauce!
- Add 2/3 of the sauce to the cooked & drained pasta, and toss with almost all the breadcrumbs and fennel fronds.
- Place the mixed pasta and sauce in a serving bowl, and top with remaining sauce, crumbs and fronds.
- Garnish individually with a few more fronds and Parmesan.
I hope you’ll love this quick weeknight dinner!