Last week I made it a point to plan a meal for everyday of the week. I lugged my Food Network Magazines out of the closest and found their weeknight recipes. On Monday I made the Baked Penne with Fennel. This dish was a major success and everyone loved it. I’m actually going to make it again this week because it was so good.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
- 1/2 pound pancetta, diced
- 1 small to medium onion, chopped
- 1 fennel bulb, sliced thin
- 1 28 oz can whole plum tomatoes
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 12 oz penne
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese (2 1/2 oz)
- 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (8 oz)
- 1 3/4 cups grated fontina cheese (6 oz)
I usually always splurge on a really good fresh parmesan cheese. I like shopping for cheeses at Whole Foods. I find that using a good quality cheese really makes a difference.
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 450. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring, until the fat renders, 2 to 3 minutes. Get rid of the fat, leave about 1 tablespoon in the pan. Add the chopped onion and sliced fennel and cook until the fennel is soft, about 5 minutes. Crush the tomatoes into the pan using your hands, then pour in the juices from the can and bring to a simmer. Fill the empty can with 1/2 cup of the boiling water and add to the sauce. Stir in the cream and simmer while you cook the pasta.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente (which mean to the tooth in Italian). Drain and add to the sauce. Stir in the fresh basil and 1/2 cup parmesan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, season with salt and toss.
Oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Layer the pasta, mozzarella, fontina and the remaining 1/2 cup parmesan in the dish, alternating pasta and cheese. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake, uncovered, until browned and bubbly, about 15 minutes.
Per serving: Calories 757; Fat 45 g (Saturated 22 g); Cholesterol 117 mg; Sodium 939 mg; Carbohydrate 56 g; Fiber 6 g; Protein 33 g
Photograph by Antonis Achilleos