Here, in the US, we have a tendency to, usually, serve pastas with heavy tomato sauces or white, creamy cheese sauces, but some of the best pasta dishes are simply pasta tossed with a good amount of olive oil (or butter) and some fresh or sautéed vegetables, especially come summertime when those vegetables are at their peak of ripeness.
I absolutely love the subtle anise (licorice) flavor of fennel and the fresh flavor it can bring to so many dishes. I will often shave it paper thin and make it into a little salad to accompany seafood or slowly cook it, like onions, until well caramelized, which deepens the flavor and brings out its intrinsic sweetness.
This pasta dish pairs fennel with tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil, and a bit of garlic to celebrate the flavors of summer. It makes the perfect hot summer evening dinner as it remains light and fresh and doesn’t require a whole lot of cooking (or heating up the house).
Summer Vegetable Pasta
1/2 pound spaghetti, dried
1 bulb fennel, fresh
1-2 tomatoes, preferably home or locally grown and at their peak of ripeness, diced
8-12 leaves fresh basil, torn into small pieces
1 scallion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbl. butter
fresh ground black pepper
Julienne the fennel by slicing it in half, across the wide side. Remove the core and julienne the individual “petals.” Bring a large pot of water to boil, while heating a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the spaghetti to the water and at the same time add half of the olive oil and all of the fennel to the saute pan. Allow the fennel to slowly sweat while the spaghetti is cooking. Just before the spaghetti is done add the garlic to the saute pan and cook without allowing the garlic to burn. Add 3 Tbl. of the pasta water to the saute pan and drain the spaghetti. Once the spaghetti is drained add it to the saute pan along with the tomato, basil, scallion and the remaining olive oil. Toss to warm through then remove from heat. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Finally add the butter and stir until it has melted. Serve immediately.