Pasta with fennel

Ever since I cooked fennel bulbs for the first time after coming here, I was wondering if there are any traditional Indian recipes for cooking fennel bulbs and fronts. India is one of the major producers of fennel seeds, and so I was naturally curious about the use of fennel bulbs in Indian cuisine. Search for an authentic Indian recipe using fennel bulbs did not generate promising results (Correct me if I am wrong, a comment on this regard is greatly appreciated), and it was disheartening to think about squandering those toothsome bulbs once the seeds are harvested. Somehow this obvious lack of a classical Indian way of cooking for an edible plant grown in many parts of India sounded improbable considering the diversity of vegetarian cuisine in the country, and how it is adapted to accommodate the local edible flora.
A couple of Google searches later, now I know that Florentine fennel cultivated for its succulent bulbs does not set forth the best of fennel seeds. Indian fennel seed is from a variety of fennel plant with characteristics similar to the wild type, bulbs are smaller, harder, stronger in taste, and overall not rated prime for cooking. What a relief, we are not wasting anything super delicious after all! Being milder in taste, fennel bulbs go very well in sweet or savory recipes. Here is a recipe for an easy breezy fennel pasta, the bulbs can trap a lot of mud; rinse in plenty of water after slicing.

Spaghetti – ½ lb
Fennel bulb
(Cleaned and sliced thin)- 2 cups
Fennel fronts finely chopped – ½ cup
Garlic, minced fine – 4 pods
Onions finely chopped – ½ cup
Fennel seeds (optional) – a pinch
Olive oil – 1 tbsp
Crushed chilly pepper – ¼ tsp
Parmesan cheese ¾ cup
Cream (or milk) ½ cup
Salt to taste

Cook pasta al dente, drain and keep. Heat olive oil in a pan; add onions, garlic, and pinch of salt, sauté till onions are translucent. Add chopped fennel bulbs and seeds (if using) and sauté till the pieces are tender. Add the crushed chilly pepper. Reduce the heat to minimum and add cream followed by cheese. Mix till the cheese melts (less than a minute), and turn off the heat. Add cooked pasta, chopped fennel fronts and toss to coat with the sauce.


Anonymous said...

I am the first one to comment!!! Archana, Are these pics taken with your new camera?

Shah cooks said...

Isin't it wonderful to taste the fennel in pasta? I love the flavors of fennel and mildness of its bulbs. The first time I saw in an Italian recipe, I was curios, but now I am a convert. Thanks for th einfo and the lovely recipe.

Krithika said...

Lovely recipe. Like you I too have wondered about the use of these bulbs in Indian cooking.

Jayashree said...

Haven't ever cooked with fennel before...infact I've only tasted the seeds...never even seen the bulbs before. Is the taste similar to that of the seeds or is it way different?

Anonymous said...

Archana, not that I know much about fennel but I have noticed that it is used in a lot of authentic Kashmiri recipes. It is fennel powder from the seeds - not the bulbs, though - that is used.

I remember chewing on tender fennel when we were kids. No-one ever cooked with it. I think you nailed it, as to why! Besides, I think we are more used to the flavors that fennel seeds impart as an after-dinner mouth freshener!

wheresmymind said...

I so need to try fennel one day

Orchidea said...

Your pasta looks really nice... I never tried fennel with pasta, in Italy it is usually a side dish to meat or fish. Interesting...

Anonymous said...

Simple and neat recipe. Fennel has a very sweet licorish taste. It can be used in thai dishes and can also be eaten raw. U can also make a lovely potato fennel gratin.Absolutely yummy.

Anonymous said...

Spicy ! Made ur zucchini curry 10 mins back, just had a small bowl of rice and curry and you know what !!! It tastes GREATTTT ! This is definetely a keeper.
While the curry was cooking the whole apt was smelling like some adukkala in Kerala :) Loved the taste of zucchini in this curry. I dint have coconut oil, so did the curry leaves seasoning with veg oil. The color was little diff from urs tho, did u use turmeric or is it bcoz of the chilli pow ??
Wat other vegetable do u suggest with this sauce, will plantain or yellow squash be good ?

Anonymous said...

The pasta looks delicious. thanks for the great recipe

FH said...

Fennel leaves is a very fragrant herb.Good choice to add to Pasta,looks great.

Nabeela said...

I've been meaning to cook with a fennel bulb too...a lot of the recipes in my mediterranean cookbook use it. Now if those recipes go wrong, I'll come and make your recipe :)

Inji Pennu said...

hospitalized aayippoyi.ippo kuresshe sheriyaayi varunnu.

Prema Sundar said...

Havent heard of fennel bulbs at all. we use seeds for cooking but using fennel bulbs and that too with pasta is very new to me.. thanks for the recipe.

Nabeela said...

Hi Archana, I have a small favor to ask..I'm contemplating buying a new camera which isn't costly but gives really good(sharp) images...can you please tell me which camera you use?
I've already looked at two very cheap is Kodak Easyshare C743(7 Megapixels) and other is Kodak Easyshare C875(8 MP) you have any idea if these are any good?

Anonymous said...

Nice recipe Archana.

Me too, I've never came across a recipe with fresh fennel. I guess the kind avialable in India is different one compared to the cooking kind here. But we never know, Assam and Arunachala Pradesh etc, they use several different ingredients in thier cuisine. Fresh fennel might be one of them.:)

manju bansal said...

Good photograph and good recipe too.

Sumitha said...

Archana kutty hi!I had no idea of using fennel bulbs in cooking,the dish though looks wonderful!I have a request can you please post a recipe for Plum Cake?plz plz...

Lakshmi said...

wow, they look so wonderful, i love your pictures, the way you take them, really hats-off to you.

Anonymous said...

Fennel is one of my favorite flavors, I always put in on fish dishes. I've never tried it on pasta though, I think I'm going to add your recipe to next week's menu. :)

Ari (Baking and Books)

The Culinary Chase said...

Lovely photos & yummy looking recipes! I love the taste of fennel so I am looking forward to trying this recipe! Cheers!

archana said...

Thank you. No Vidhu, I am still fiddling with its buttons, this is relatively an old photo.

Shaheen, Krithika
Thank you so much.

These bulbs have a mild fennel seed like flavor, and it is crunchy. You can use it in salads too.

Fennel seed is used in most of the Kerala and TN non vegetarian curries, and I think it is an ingredient in panch puran too. I have never of anyone using bulbs though. Thank you.

Please do, thank you.

Thank you. Could you please share your fennel bulb recipes with us sometime?

Thank you. I love the flavor of these bulbs, even a simple bake or salad is fantastic. French cookbooks have many recipes for these bulbs, will look for Thai recipes. Thank you for your tips.

Priya S&S
Thank you Priya, I am sooo happy that you liked it. There is no turmeric in the recipe, thought there is no harm in adding some. I think the color changes depending on the chilly powder used. Ridge gourd and egg plant works well with this recipe too.

Nalini, ASha, Nabeela
Thank you friends.

Inji Pennu
Welcome back Ingikutty, we are all so relieved to see you back. Take ample rest, and have happy thoughts. Do let me know if I can do anything for you. I am just a mail away.

Thank you so much.

My everyday camera is Sony DSC P92, and all the photos in this blog till date are taken with that. Rest is in the mail.

Thank you so much. Yes, that is exactly what I am thinking too, we may never know.

Thank you.

Thank you Sumi, I will post the recipe soon. If I am not able to post it soon ( Don’t have a photo yet), will mail it to you.

Saffron, Lakshmi
Thanks a lot friends.

I will have to try it with fish sometime. Thank you.

TC Chase
Thank you, I love the flavor of fennel bulbs too.

Nidhi said...

Nice recipe, fennel in pasta....a different combo too.


Murthy said...

I have been getting my CSA to send me fennel bulbs every week for the last 2 or 3 weeks -- and it's a lot of fun finding and cooking new recipes..Especially a fennel and leek risotto, Fennel soup etc.
Thanks for providing the reason for not having any indian recipes with fennel..i too have been puzzled.
The taste is so different, that i cannot think of any Indian dish that it can go with. A Biryani or Pulao for sure, but cannot imagine it in a sambar,aviyal porial etc..

BTW, the combo of fennel and leek is a killer


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