If you have some fresh wild fennel on hand, this dish is for you. Adding a few simple ingredients elevates a basic spaghetti aglio olio to a whole new level.
Spaghetti Aglio Olio with Croutons and Wild FennelPrint This
- 4 oz (125 g) dry bread, cut into cubes for croutons
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb (500 g) spaghetti
- 1 cup reserved pasta water
- 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- ½ tsp dried chili pepper flakes
- 2 tsp wild fennel seeds (flowery tops)
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 small bunch wild fennel,
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling
Put a large pot of water on to boil. The water will likely come to a boil while you’re making the sauce. Try to time this so the pasta comes out of the pot just when you’re ready to add it to the sauce. When the water boils, salt it, drop in the pasta and give it a little stir. Cook it until it’s slightly pre–al dente. Then drain it, reserving about 1 cup (250 mL) of the pasta cooking water.
Pour the olive oil in a frying pan over high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the bread cubes and a pinch of salt, and toss for a couple of minutes until the bread is crispy and golden. Transfer the croutons to a dish and set aside.
In the same frying pan, over medium-low heat, add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Stir in the chili flakes and wild fennel seeds and cook for about 30 seconds. Be careful here: you don’t want to cook the garlic or fennel too fast. Your goal is to coax the sweetness out of the garlic; if it burns it will turn bitter.
Add the croutons and cook for about a minute. Add the cooked spaghetti, along with ½ cup (125 mL) of the reserved pasta cooking water, and cook for about a minute. If it’s dry, avoid the temptation to add more oil. Add another ½ cup (125 mL) of the reserved pasta cooking water instead. You want the pasta to finish cooking in the sauce and the flavors to mingle. Rip some more wild fennel tops off of the stems and sprinkle over the dish. Then add the pecorino.
Serve immediately, drizzled with some olive oil.