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Archive for May 14th, 2009

This recipe is rather rich, but very tasty – a useful dish that can be made in advance and cooked just before you are ready to eat. I was a bit nervous about what seemed like a large quantity of fennel required (500g/1lb) when I made it first time, so substituted half the fennel with onion.  The dish still has a strong fennel flavour but the onion, along with 6-8 sliced mushrooms, both give additional flavours which complement the ham. (I used a gammon steak, which I pre-cooked in the same pot as the pasta!) I also augmented the recipe with a mozzarella cheese ball cut into pieces. The taste testers in my family said they would definitely like to eat this dish again! (I might even risk the whole quantity of fennel next time.)

The original recipe came from More Great Pasta Dishes by Diane Seed which contains a number of straightforward pasta recipes. The book is very attractive with colourful illustrations by Sarah Holcombe.

100_3505 Baked Pasta with Fennel, Cream & Ham

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Baked Pasta with Fennel, Cream & Ham
Penne al forno con salsa di finocchi e prosciutto cotto
(Serves 4)

500g/1lb Fennel bulb & Onion (proportions according to taste, I used 50/50)
Salt
100ml/3½fl ozs single cream (Elmlea gives a lower fat alternative)
Black pepper
1tbsp olive oil
7g/¼oz butter
150g/5ozs diced cooked ham
6-8 sliced button mushrooms (optional)
1 x 125g ball of Mozzarella cheese, liquid drained away (optional)
12ozs pasta (I used Penne – original recipe calls for Rigatoni)
50g/1½ozs freshly grated Parmesan cheese
50g/1½ozs breadcrumbs

1.  Remove the feathery tubes and any tough fibres from the fennel. Roughly chop the fennel and cook in lightly salted water until tender. Drain and puree. Cool slightly, mix with the cream and season to taste. (If, as in the original recipe, you use all fennel and omit the onion then cook and puree two-thirds at this stage and reserve the remaining third to cook in place of the onion at
Stage 2.)

2.  Chop the onion and fry gently in the butter and oil for about 10minutes until translucent but not brown. Add the sliced mushrooms and diced ham and cook for a further 5 minutes. Season to taste.

3.  Pre-heat oven to 200oC/400oF.

4.  Half cook the pasta in boiling salted water. Drain and stir through the fennel cream sauce.

(The mozzarella is not in the original recipe. If you are omitting it then combine the pasta and ham mixtures and pour directly into the ovenproof dish.) Otherwise…

5.  Place half the pasta in sauce in the base of an ovenproof dish. Place the ham mixture on top and then evenly cover with pieces of sliced mozzarella. Finally add the remaining pasta in sauce.

6.  Sprinkle over the grated parmesan and breadcrumbs. Add some freshly ground black pepper

7.  Bake in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes.

8.  Serve with a green salad or a lightly cooked green vegetable. It would be best to follow this dish with a light and refreshing dessert.

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