FENNEL FRONDS PESTO ORECHIETTE

Who doesn’t love pesto. The colour. The versatility. The fact that it gives me an excuse to have more pasta for dinner. Mostly, I love that it makes fantastic use of things that might otherwise get tossed out. For example, the other day I went to get some fennel for one of my other recipes. Have you all used fennel before? It’s such an interesting veggie. Actually, did you know that it’s a spice, a plant, and a vegetable? Neither did I until I did a little digging. Fennel has a very complex favour. It is highly aromatic and has a distinct taste.

There’s only one place in my town that I can get fennel on a good day so I did some hoping, walked in and asked for some “hinojo” (e-no-ho) and waited. A few minutes later I was happily surprised with not only my fennel, but the longest strands of fronds attached to the bulb.

I mean just look at it. That’s the biggest cutting board in my house and it couldn’t even fit on it. It sure is pretty though, isn’t it?

Living in a time where I no longer run to the store when I run out of one thing or another, I really try hard not to waste. My husband is a huge soup maker and I often save the ends and tips of veggies in a bag in the freezer so that he can add to his stock. But this time, I wanted all those beauties for me. I cut the fennel off since I needed it for my Baked Pork Spring Rolls recipe. Then I took these leafy ends, or fronds as they’re often called, gave them a good wash, pulled off all the tough pieces, and got ready for pesto.

The pesto was done in less than 5 minutes, even before the water for my pasta was boiling. Pesto is such a versatile thing. I don’t often have pine nuts as they’re sooooooo expensive here, so this time I used walnuts. This pesto is much stronger than pesto made with basil or parsley, which I kind of like because you need a lot less of it to pack a punch.

You can use it on chicken, pasta, or slather it on a piece of crusty bread. The options are endless! So, the next time you see this pretty veggie in the store, grab it and try it!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups loosely packed fennel fronds
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan or Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 250 grams orecchiette or any pasta noodle
  • salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

In a food processor, add fronds, walnuts, garlic and cheese. Process for about 30 seconds or until combined. With machine running, slowly pour in oil, adding more if you would like it a little more liquidy. Season with salt and pepper.

Put a pot of water on to boil. Cook pasta to al dente and drain, saving a little pasta water. Toss noodles, desired amount of pesto, and a little cooking water and/or more oil to thin it out if you so desire. Serve immediately with more parmesan.

Serves 2 with leftover pesto which can be kept 2 weeks in air-tight container in fridge, or frozen in a Ziploc bag.

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