Vegetarian Pasta with Toasted Fennel Seeds

fennel seeds and black pepper with olive oil pasta sauce recipe

Fennel seed can freshen your breath after a meal - by chewing on the whole seed, or even in ice cream like my last recipe – but it can also add a distinct fresh taste to the meal itself.

The licorice flavor of toasted fennel, matched with the bite of freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper, creates an excellent spice blend for pasta.  An alternative to the common tomato based pasta sauces, and the heavy cream sauces. And maybe the only alternative if you already started to boil the pasta and you realize that your all out of pasta sauce.

how to toast fennel seeds?

Add in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, butter, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, basil, garlic, and red onion.  And if you want a little burn on your tongue, throw in a dash of crushed red peppers.

healthy olive oil pasta sauce with white button mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and spices

Give fennel seed pasta sauce a try with fennel ice cream for dessert, and you’ll be surprised just how much one spice can do.  

Vegetarian Pasta with Toasted Fennel, White Button Mushrooms and Cherry Tomatoes 
by Season with Spice
2 servings

What you’ll need:
2 servings of pasta (try it with linguine)
1/2 tsp of Season with Spice's fennel seeds
1/2 tsp of whole black peppercorns
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 small red onion, diced
7 cremimi or white button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp of Season with Spice Aleppo Chili Flakes 
1/2 tsp of dried basil (or fresh if you have it)
Sea salt to taste

Process for sauce:
1. Toast fennel seeds by cooking on dry pan over medium fire.  Stir the seeds with a wooden spoon until fragrant (2-3 minutes).
2. In a mortar, crush toasted fennel seeds and whole black peppercorns into coarse pieces.  Set aside.
3. Heat olive oil over medium fire.  Then add in garlic and onion, and cook until fragrant. 
4. Toss in the mushrooms (with a few tablespoons of water), stir in the butter, and cook for about 5 minutes. 
5. Throw in the tomatoes and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
6. Turn the heat off, and pour sauce over cooked pasta.  Stir in balsamic vinegar, fennel/black pepper, salt, Aleppo chili flakes, and basil, and there you have it - a flavorfully light pasta!

1. I used fusilli for this recipe, but linguine works much better for this lighter sauce.
2. Tips for cooking pasta - add salt to prevent the water from foaming, and oil to prevent the pasta from sticking together.