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Pasta al Finocchio (Pasta with Fennel) - A simple pasta dish with fantastic flavors!

Last month, over the holidays, Jack and I decided to challenge ourselves for the week between Christmas and New Years by cooking only with foods that we already had in our refrigerator, freezer or pantry. Of course – we still bought some fresh foods like milk and eggs as we needed them.

But – as you might imagine with us being food bloggers – we often end up with lots of random, leftover ingredients once we’re done preparing and photographing a recipe. So – hating to see any food go to waste – that’s when Jack gets his most creative in the kitchen and this Pasta al Finocchio (translation:Pasta with Fennel) recipe was created!

Pasta al Finocchio (Pasta with Fennel) - A simple pasta dish with fantastic flavors!

With some leftover fennel, leeks and lemons in our crisper drawers, plus some pantry items like canned diced tomatoes, anchovies, pasta and bread crumbs – I immediately knew that this somewhat eclectic mix of ingredients would be turned into a deliciously Italian dish!

The fennel and leeks are perfect, complementary flavors to the tomatoes in the sauce, and once the sauce is tossed with pasta (we used a sturdy cellantini-shaped pasta but any shape will work), a super flavorful bread crumb topping is sprinkled over the Pasta al Finocchio adding even more delicious tastes.

Pasta al Finocchio (Pasta with Fennel) - A simple pasta dish with fantastic flavors!

There are actually many versions of Pasta al Finocchio that you can find online – and they all seem to be a delicious mix of different “thrown together” ingredients, so feel free to get creative with this recipe adding new and different flavors to the mix.

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Pasta al Finocchio

  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 servings


Note: To get the fennel finely sliced, a mandolin is the perfect tool for the job. Otherwise, use a very sharp knife to create the thin slices. Also, if using anchovies, additional salt will not be needed in this dish.


  • 1 can anchovies or sardines packed in oil
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup leeks, diced (white part only, cleaned of all sand)
  • ½ pound fennel finely sliced (see note), white bulb only, core removed. (Save fronds for garnish.)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • ¼ cup vermouth or dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (zest used in topping below)
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 12 ounces dry pasta of choice (we used cellentani)


  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • Zest from one lemon
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Drain oil from anchovy or sardine can into a large sauté pan. Add olive oil and heat over medium heat.
  2. Add leeks, fennel, garlic and chili flakes and cook for five minutes.
  3. Add anchovies or sardines and cook to break up fish into mixture.
  4. Add vermouth and cook for one minute.
  5. Add lemon juice and tomatoes and lower to a simmer. Cook just until vegetables are tender, about five minutes. Remove from heat.
  6. While vegetables are cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta to just slightly under cooked. It should still have a bite to it.
  7. While pasta is cooking, place bread crumbs and pine nuts into a small dry sauté pan and over medium heat, cook for about five minutes or more until bread crumbs are nicely toasted. Remove to a bowl and stir in lemon zest and Parmesan. Set aside.
  8. Once pasta is ready, ladle out one cup of pasta water into the pan with the vegetables and return to medium high heat. Once bubbly, add cooked drained pasta and cook until pasta is tender.
  9. Add half of the toasted bread crumbs to the mixture. This will get absorbed by the liquid in the pan and coat the pasta.
  10. Pour into bowls and top with the remaining toasted bread crumb mixture and garnish with fennel fronds.

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Pasta al Finocchio (Pasta with Fennel) - A simple pasta dish with fantastic flavors!

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