So I took up the challenge.
After my last post, one of my readers suggested rather than going to a standard recipe for each region of Italy we will be visiting, pick an ingredient from that region and create a dish around it. I mean, really, isn’t that what “Think Like A Chef” is all about?
I chose fennel, and on to the supermarket I went.
On the way to the store, I was thinking how could I cook it, and what would go well with it? I knew I wanted pasta (gluten free, of course) somewhere in the dish, but how would I incorporate the fennel? In the end, I decided to roast the fennel.
Next decision? What kind of sauce? I had a couple of ways I could go here. I could buy something canned – nah. Next, I could make my own – maybe. I could buy some tomatoes, seed and dice them, and use that – maybe. Or…I could buy grape tomatoes, and roast them with the fennel, and put those of top of whatever it is that I am making. Yes!
Now…protein. Chicken is too obvious. I decided that an Italian sausage would be good. I chose to go with turkey sausage, so I could keep the fat content as low as possible. Now, what kind of Italian sausage? This may come as a surprise to some of my regular readers, but I decided to go with sweet rather than hot. As you know, I like bold flavors, and I’m not put off by heat. But in the past, every time I’ve cooked with Italian sausage, I always end up regretting not using the sweet sausage. So really, that was a no brainer.
At this point, my brain took over and I wandered off to the Italian food section of my megamart. Maybe there was something I could add to the dish? Artichokes…maybe. But maybe that would take away from the fennel. Pine nuts? Not a huge fan. After going back and forth for about 15 minutes, I decided the KISS rule applies, and I decided to stick with my small list of ingredients.
So, first I roasted the fennel and the grape tomatoes, making sure to switch the position of the pan ½ way through. I roasted them at 350 degrees, with some olive oil. At the 20-minute mark, the fennel was almost done, but not quite, as they were still a bit too crunchy, and still retained a lot of the licorice flavor and not being sweet enough. After five more minutes, they were just right.
In the meantime, I chopped up an onion and some garlic. I was also boiling the water so the pasta could go in. I took the casing off of the sausage and broke that up in a pan with a little bit of olive oil. After that was cooked, in went the onion and the garlic. By this time, the roasting of the vegetables was done, and was cooling off slightly, while the pasta went in the salted boiling water. I managed to time it perfectly, and once the onions were cooked, the gluten free pasta went into a bowl, the sausage mixture went on top of that, and then op top of that went the roasted grape tomatoes and fennel, and I finished it off with some pecorino Romano cheese.
This is the result.
It was really good. For sure, I think it was the prettiest dish I have come up with, and it tasted great. The fennel had just enough crunch to it, to give the dish some texture, and I didn’t miss having a traditional sauce at all. Cathy said, “This one’s a keeper!”
As for calories, one bowl is 539 calories with 14 grams of fat. But 9 of the grams was from the olive oil, so really, most of the fat content was good fat. If you left out the cheese, it would have been even less.