Fennel pasta

Fennel pasta

fennel pasta portion

When it comes to quick, impromptu meals, pasta is a true life saver! It is versatile, filling, comes together quickly and always tastes good.

And no, I don’t agree with the opinion that it’s an unhealthy thing to eat – especially when prepared without lashings of butter, heaps of Parmesan or buckets of cream – not that I’ve ever been a fan of creamy pasta sauces anyway.

Take this simple fennel pasta, for example. Apart from charred fennel, it gets its flavour from sweet Greek tomatoes, capers, olives and a handful spices. It’s vibrant and super tasty. It’s finished with some fresh parsley and toasted pine nuts for an extra crunch.

Yes, I did use some olive oil to bring the sauce together but no more than a vinaigrette-style salad dressing would call for so I don’t know about you, but I eat pasta like this regularly and do not beat myself up about it at all.

charred fennel for fennel pasta

fennel pasta sauce

fennel pasta close up

10 min
30 min
10 min
30 min
  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • 3 tbsp / 45 ml olive oil
  • ¼ cup / 50 g capers (rinsed well if very salty), chopped
  • 10 Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups diced ripe tomatoes (approx. 3 large tomatoes)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 5 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • generous pinch of hot chilli flakes
  • generous pinch of saffron (optional)
  • 200 g of your favourite pasta* (I used wholemeal spaghetti), cooked al dente
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts, pan roasted
  1. Heat up a heavy bottomed pan on a medium-high heat. Trim fennel and cut it into 8 wedges lengthwise. Brush the wedges of fennel and unpeeled garlic cloves with a small amount of olive oil. Place on a hot pan and let fennel caramelise and garlic cloves brown for a few minutes. After fennel is nicely browned on one side, turn it over to the other side and let the other side caramelise and soften. Turn garlic over to the other side and let it brown on the other side too.
  2. Once fennel is soft, take it off the pan, season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside. Peel roasted garlic cloves and put them through a garlic press or chop them into a small dice.
  3. Heat up 2 tbsp of olive oil in the same pan. Add roast garlic and chopped tomatoes and let them simmer on low heat until they soften and thicken into a sauce. Mix in some tomato paste, balsamic vinegar and sugar. Season with salt, pepper, chilli and saffron to taste. Add chopped capers and olives.
  4. Mix in cooked pasta. Serve topped with caramelised fennel (you may want to cut the wedges into smaller pieces so it’s easier to eat), toasted pine nuts and fresh parsley.

*Use gluten-free pasta for a gluten-free meal.

10 g
27 g
4 g
12 g
66 g
*per serving
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14 reviews, 26 comments
The flavors with the garlic, saffron and brown sugar were amazing. I have never caramelized garlic before! The taste of it all was amazing 👏
    Thank you, really happy to hear that you enjoyed it so much! x Ania
Excellent recipe! we loved it. Thank you so much for sharing it. ❤️
    Thank you Julia, I am so happy to hear that! x Ania
Kim Quinn:
I already know I love the different ingredients in this recipe, so can't wait to try. My only diff, I love pasta but pasta sits like a brick in my tummy. I am roasting sliced kombocha squash in the oven and serving this sauce over it. it is so much like baked potato in texture and filling as pasta is. Much less carbs though. Thank you for this recipe!!!
    Great to hear, Kim! I hope that you'll enjoy it! x Ania
I omitted the sugar, didn’t use saffron. Tasted great! Very lively and satisfying dish :)
    Great to Zoe, thank you for taking the time to review. x Ania
Made this for dinner last night and I was surprised by how quickly it all came together. The flavours were fantastic and we really enjoyed trying fennel out this way.
    Thanks Tracy, I am delighted to hear that you enjoyed it. Thanks for taking the time to review, I really appreciate. x Ania
Really delicious and fairly easy. My husband doesn't like kalamata olives but really enjoyed this recipe. Will definitely make this again.
    Great to hear that, Lyndsey! And many thanks for letting me know that it was a success with both you and your husband. x Ania
This was fantastic!! We got fennel in our farm box and I had no idea what to do with it. Made this recipe tonight and there are no leftovers! Everyone raved at how good it was. Definitely making it again.
    I’m delighted to hear that this recipe has hit the spot, Jessica! And thank you for taking the time to leave this lovely review - much appreciated. X Ania
This is my first review to any recipe on the whole internet - but had to write one as the dish is just so mindblowingly good! Have made a zillion tomato pastas in my life, but this just hits all the buttons - the abundance and richness flavours amazes every time! Ps. also my 75-year-old mum is a fan and makes it regurlarly - you don't need to be an expert chef to prepare this meal.
    Thank you so much for your kind words, Mona. I'm delighted to hear that both you and your mum enjoyed it so much. And thank you so much for taking the time to leave such a lovely review - much appreciated. Ania
Absolutely incredible recipe! I love cooking and I especially love tomato based pasta sauces so I’m not easily impressed with new tomato sauce recipes but somehow this was phenomenal. 11/10.
    Wow, that's some compliment, thank you so much. I am delighted to hear that you enjoyed it so much, Jade! x Ania
    Thanks so much! I'm delighted to hear that! Ania
We made this on the weekend and loved it. The flavours are just so good and absolutely loved the toasted pine nuts in this. My partner said it was the best pasta dish he's eaten in a long time.
    Thanks so much, I am delighted to hear that you both enjoyed it so much! x Ania
This was absolutely delicious. Thank you so much for this recipe. I was transported to my favorite childhood Italian restaurant---like a Ratatouille moment--- was it something in the tomato sauce? The balsamic? Crushed roasted garlic? Minced capers?? Anyway, I didn't have pine nuts on hand and used pumpkin seeds instead. I figured the toasted seed would really add texture to the pasta and it did. The pumpkin seed was a fine substitution, but I'll have to try with the buttery pine nut next time. Absolutely loved the technique of roasting the garlic in the pan with its skin on. My mind is blown. I must buy more fennel and make this dish again!
    Aw, thanks so much, Vanessa. It's so nice to wake up to such a glowing review! I am delighted you enjoyed it so much and thanks for taking the time to let me know. Stay safe! Ania
I made this yesterday & it was delicious!
Super easy to make.
Tasted healthy too.
Definitely making this again :)
    Thanks, Ziggi! I am super happy to hear that and thanks for taking the time to let me know that you enjoyed this dish. Stay safe. x Ania
Hi Ania,
Just tried this recipe today and the flavors were wonderful. However, I found that my fennel seemed really hard on the inside and uncooked. The outside was charred, but the inside was not at all softened. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong (as I am new to the fennel world, after having your amazing soup the other day!) ... should I try cooking it longer on a lower heat? Any tips would be appreciated! Thank you!
    Hi Shana,
    I am glad to hear that you liked the pasta, but sorry to hear about the fennel not being fully cooked. To remedy this, cut it into skinnier wedges so that they cook quicker and yes, lower heat for a prolonged period of time (without much moving - apart from a test piece - until one side gets done is a good idea. High heat will give you a nice char, but the inside won't be fully cooked before the outside starts to burn. Hope that helps and I hope it will come out perfect next time. x Ania
Barbara Reid:
Loved it, couldn’t find fennel either so I substituted artichoke hearts instead have to say I will make this again, hopefully with fennel but if it’s not available I will use the artichoke hearts again.
    Great substitutions, I love artichokes too! I'm so glad you enjoyed it and planning to make it again! Ania
Kerstin Decker:
So, Ania, I made this Fennel dish and believe me, it was eaten in a heartbeat and was so good. I did omit the oil and browned my fennel in water, as I so not use any oil or margarine, but nobody is ever the wiser. The taste and flavor of this dish is remarkable, thank you
    I'm so pleased to hear that, Kerstin and kudos to you for being able to make a flavoursome dish without any fat, it's a little bit harder, isn't it? Ania
ok had no fennel sub a red onion no capers added chicken sausage. Garlic was in a jar minced, and no tomato paste added a can of smoked tomato pieces, It is pretty good I think I put too much sugar in it but it is still pretty good. Thank you for the recipe
    Glad to hear that you enjoyed it, Keagan! :) Ania
hey just started browsing your blog and loving it so far, can you please tell me what are capers and where can I buy them?
    Thanks Trupti, glad to hear that! Capers are edible flower buds that are pickled in a salty solution, they are widely used in Italian, French and Greek cuisine so should be available in larger shops / supermarkets. They get sold in jars or by weight from deli counters. Hope that helps! Ania
This was delicious! I'm not a great cook or a lover of fennel but the pictures looked so good thought I'd give it a go and it turned out great! I also made the chickpeas on toast and loved it, simple recipe with beautiful results :) thanks!
    Thanks so much for this lovely comment, Charlene! Your feedback made my day!
I'm drooling all over these photos :) now I have to go and get some fennel!
    Thanks, Lee! Hope you'll love it :)
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