It’s no wonder fennel makes me smile. Besides the obvious snacking benefits, its bright licorice flavor is especially wonderful raw in salads and salsas. However, on this day I wanted to create a tomato sauce richly laced with vegetables and complemented with some spicy meatballs – and fennel was the object of my intentions.
When I was ready to start dinner, I heated the sauce, added the meatballs and simmered the sauce for about 20 minutes; just enough to infuse the sauce and cook the meatballs thoroughly. The finished sauce had a balanced spiciness and a lovely texture – and the carrots and fennel retained their slight al dente quality. Served with linguine and a shave of Parmesan: fantastico!
Tomato and Fennel Sauce with Meatballs and Pasta
24 oz. Meatballs (see below), browned well
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small bulb fennel, trimmed and chopped
1 whole carrot, peeled, chopped
2 teaspoons mixed dried herbs, savory, oregano, sage
2 – 14 oz cans tomatoes chopped, in puree
1 – 8 oz can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved
1 pound linguine, cooked al dente and drained well
24 ounces lean ground beef
1/2 onion minced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 slices day-old bread, soaked in water, squeezed dry
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees: use convection if available. Line baking sheet with foil, drizzle with olive oil.
Combine meatball ingredients with hands and form into approx. 1″ balls and place on baking sheet, roll them in olive oil and bake in oven for about 10 minutes. When they begin to brown turn the meatballs and bake for additional 10 minutes or until browned on all sides. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Meanwhile in large pot, heat the oil and saute the onion and garlic until aromatic. Trim the fennel root and leaves, remove the tough outer portion, and chop like celery. Add the fennel and carrot and cook for 4-5 minutes stirring occasionally, until vegetable begin to soften, adding the herbs as they cook. Add the tomatoes and sauce, stir well, simmer 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat.
When ready to serve, reheat the tomato sauce and add the meatballs; simmer for 15-20 minutes. Stir in fresh herbs and simmer briefly. Serve with pasta and fresh Parmesan cheese. Serves 4 ~~