Sunday, 2 January 2011

F is for... Fennel Fettuccine

Richard and I had got used to having a pasta course before a meat course while in Italy. Though, unless you're planning to walk around 6 miles a day, as we did while there, I wouldn't suggest it as a lifestyle choice. On our first night out we ate five courses. According to our guide book, Romans would never dream of ordering anything less when eating out, so when in Rome...

What we didn't expect was that all courses would be as large as mains. We were full up after the pasta and so, for F's pasta course, I wanted to make sure there would be room left in everyone's tummies for the food to come.

I have made fresh pasta many times before, but I'd only ever hand rolled or shaped it. Having learned my lesson from D night's dim sum, I decided to invest in a pasta machine for the fettuccine, and at just £16.99 from Argos, it was an absolute steal.

BUT, once I had made the dough in the magimix (to save time), I was too swift in my eagerness to turn the dough out of the bowl, and sliced open my index on its sharp blade. This time, it was deep. I sprayed poor Richard's new shirt with blood as he wrapped my finger in a tissue and instructed me to lift my hand (which was already wearing two blue plasters from earlier mis-haps of the day) above my head. I sobbed silently and dramatically and slid to the floor in a heap, while the muffled screeches and squawks of children and gin-addled adults from the sitting room stung my hot, angry ears. It was all too much. I was exhausted. I'd only slept 6 hours in the last 48 and I was unlimited and unstoppable in my feelings of theatrical self pity. When I turned to my sister, Debs, asking her to wipe the hot, salty tears from my face as they were making my cheeks sting, I caught a glimpse of my pathetic reflection in the oven door. And laughed. Richard and Debs laughed with me and at me while wiping away my tears. They pulled me up off the floor and comforted me with well needed hugs.

Despite several wounded digits and an impressive display of the hysterics, dinner still needed to be made. I had to get a grip and get on with the rest of the "F" feast. My last reserves of luck for that day had insured that no blood had been spilled in the pasta dough - only the floor and Richard's new shirt bore the brunt of its flow. I knocked back some paracetamol, resisted the gin and was relieved at Richard and Debs' offers of help. They set up my new pasta machine on the kitchen table and got to work passing the dough through the turning rollers while I got on with the fennel sauce.

Neither of them had ever made pasta before and in my highly dramatic state, I didn't think to tell them not to leave the cut pasta in a big pile on a plate. They did just that, which slightly undermined all their hard work with the machine, as much of the fettuccine had stuck together and half-reformed its original dough ball shape. Never mind. There was enough for most of the guests to have individual strings of fat fettuccine but Richard and I took one for the team and both ate the congealed and gluey pasta dough with a knife and fork, watching everyone else elegantly twirling their's around their forks.

It was a huge success (bar mine and Richard's lumpy bowls) and the sauce was both rich and refreshing and full of unctuous, aniseed-y glossiness.


500 g strong pasta flour (Tipo "00")
2 whole eggs
6 egg yolks

Simply chuck all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until a dough starts to form. Tip out the dough and knead by hand for a few minutes until smooth and elastic. Cover the pasta in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for about an hour before rolling out and cutting into fettuccine - just follow the instructions on your pasta machine.

Fennel Sauce

One of my dinner guests for F is dairy-free, so I used oil instead of butter and left out the cream in a special portion for her.

2 fennel bulbs, chopped, retaining the fennel tops for later
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 pint fresh chicken stock
2 glasses of Vermouth (I used Martini)
A handful of fresh tarragon, chopped
Salt and pepper
A generous splash of cream

Fry the onion, garlic and fennel in butter until soft and golden. Add a wine glass of vermouth and leave to reduce. Add the stock, salt and pepper and the fresh tarragon and leave to simmer until the sauce has reduced by half. Add another glass of Vermouth and reduce by half again. Chop the fennel tops and scatter into the sauce, simmer for a few minutes, taste for seasoning and stir in the cream. While you are finishing off your sauce, throw your pasta into a large saucepan of boiling salty water for a few minutes and drain. Tip the pasta into the sauce and toss everything together. Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some cracked black pepper and some shaved parmesan if you wish.   


  1. Oh hon, the trials you suffered! It all sounds superb though.

  2. Thanks jane, it was a pretty frantic day!