bowties with fennel and leeks

Fennel is another one of those veggies that are not exactly exotic but which most ordinary Americans have never themselves consumed as a vegetable. And don't know anyone who has, if asked. Yet supermarkets seem to sell it to someone. And cooking magazines acknowledge it as a legitimate ingredient. And now that our fennel radar is up, we are beginning to notice it more and more.

The e-mail call went out for help on the baked fennel recipe from real Italians who are more fennel aware. [It's a global food world these days.] And a copy went out to dr bob 's mom for light reading. And with her fennel radar up, she found this one in a women's magazine while waiting in a doctor's office. It took a week to find the right moment to give it a try. But when the right moment came, the team was slightly unprepared. No tomatoes. So dr bob made an emergency quick supply run to the nearest supermarket while ms_ani got started. And finished by his return except for the chopped tomato topping. But she assured him that she followed the recipe almost exactly apart from the agreed upon substitution of the missing light cream by a little Italian cooking cream package newly expired and remaining from the summer pre-return flight food shopping spree in Rome a few months before. And except for the standard animal to veggie broth substitution. And except for, well, we'll get to that. So into the oven it went, and out it came, and it was. Terrific. bob wolfed down two big platefuls. So did ani, but slower. With plenty left over for another dinner later in the week. Thanks, mom.


the official list our list
4 medium leeks [1 1/2 lbs] 1 big leek
2 medium fennel bulbs [1 lb each] 1 big? bulb fennel
2 garlic cloves, minced 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T sugar 1 T sugar
1 lb bowtie (or gemelli) pasta 1 lb bowtie (or gemelli) pasta
salt salt
1 c chicken broth 1 c veggie broth
1/4 c heavy or whipping cream 1/4 c Italian cooking cream
1/4 t fresh ground pepper 1/4 t fresh ground pepper
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
1 ripe medium tomato, diced 1/4 in 1 ripe medium tomato, diced 1/4 in


  1. Start the pasta water boiling. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Clean the leek(s): get rid of the hard green ends, the root end and any tough outer layers, then slice part way down the stalk along the "seems" at the green end down past where the sand/dirt is hiding and rinse well, and drain. Then slice thin cross-sections and finally chop. [The original recipe called for cutting each leek lengthwise and then crosswise into 1/4 in wide slices, but we like it chopped finer.]
  3. Heat 1 T of the oil in a 12 in nonstick skillet over medium heat and then cook the leeks about 15 min until tender and golden, stirring often.
  4. Meanwhile (in between stirring leeks?), trim the top and bottom of each fennel bulb and slice lengthwise in half, removing and discarding the hard core (an unfortunate meeting of words that will probably choke web chaperones accessing this page). Slice the half bulbs crosswise into thin slices.
  5. After about 15 min add the fennel, garlic, sugar and remaining 1 T oil to the leeks and cook about 20 min until the fennel is tender and golden, stirring often.
  6. Meanwhile, cook the pasta when the water comes to a boil (add salt, follow package instructions). Then drain and return to the pot.
  7. When the leek-fennel mixture is tender, add the broth, cream, pepper, 1/2 t salt and all but 2 T parmesan and boil 2 min.
  8. Spoon pasta into 4 qt casserole, add the leek-fennel mixture and mix well. Sprinkle the top with the diced tomato and the rest of the parmesan. Bake covered 20 min till hot and bubbly. Garnish with fennel fronds if you like. [Useless final step.]


  1. Good Housekeeping, October, 98. [Mom went to the public library to find the magazine again, and after this was finished, we found the original recipe on their website. Clarifying a couple points from the hastily scribbled down notes converted to e-mail.]
  2. Yields 6 main dish servings. Each serving: About 460 calories, 15 g protein, 77 g carbohydrate, 11 g total fat (4 g saturated), 2 g fiber, 17 mg cholesterol, 560 mg sodium.
  3. Excellent choice for real pasta lovers.
lkfnlpsta.htm: 17-apr-1998 [what, ME cook? 1984 dr bob enterprises]