Have you ever tried fennel fronds?
There are a zillion recipes out there using fennel bulbs, but very few that use the stalks and fennel fronds.
But they ARE edible. Even delicious!
They have that anise flavor, but are significantly less pungent than the bulb. And just like the bulb, that licorice-y taste diminishes as you cook it. Since the fronds especially are so thin and delicate, they are perfect after just a slight saute.
So here we go. A recipe using fennel fonds 🙂
You can just rip the fronds off the stalks of fennel from the store, OR if you are lucky enough to live in California and are feeling adventurous, there is plenty of wild fennel around, just ripe for the picking.
Case in point: Wild fennel seen during a hike in Livermore.
Please note: Wild fennel is different than the kind you get in the store. There is no bulb! So don’t try to dig it up (I learned this the hard way…). Just pluck off the fennel fronds and be on your merry way. Just be sure to wash them very very well before you use them!
This is a really simple recipe. Follow the picture steps and see the full recipe and health tip below!
First, pluck off all the fennel fronds from 2 large fennel stalks or gather a bunch from the wild:
Then chop them all up.
Next, prep the sausage. Slit them down the center with a sharp knife to cut through the casing:
Then remove the casing and crumble into your pan (the smaller the better so you don’t have to do as much breaking up with your spatula while cooking).
After browning, add the garlic and fennel fronds.
Then cook for a couple minutes.
Then add the pasta, some pasta water to create a sauce, and some yummy cheese. Season with pepper and enjoy!
Health Tip: The compound in fennel responsible for that classic licorice flavor is called anethole. A study conducted out of the University of Texas in the year 2000 showed that anethole is able to block many TNF (tumor necrosis factor) cellular pathways that can increase inflammation. Anethole has been suggested to work as an anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer compound. (source here)
- 1/4 cup olive oil (or safflower oil for low salicylates)
- 1 lb hot Italian sausage, crumbled
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup finely chopped fennel fronds
- 1 lb bowtie pasta
- 1/4 cup pasta cooking water
- 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan-romano cheese blend
- ground pepper to taste (omit if salicylate sensitive)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Add the olive oil and sausage to a large nonstick skillet. Heat over medium-high heat and cook for 8-10 minutes until browned. Take care to break up the sausage into small pieces with your spatula.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling water according to package directions, usually about 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and fennel fronds to the sausage and cook for 3-5 minutes more until garlic is fragrant. Then reduce the heat to low.
Reserve 1/4 cup of pasta cooking water and drain the rest of the pasta.
Add the cooking water and pasta to the skillet and stir to combine. Sprinkle on the cheese and toss again to combine.
Season with pepper and serve (with additional cheese if desired).