Saturday, November 04, 2006

Tomatoes and Smoke

Tonight I sat down to one of the best dinners I've ever made. While on vacation, my husband and I picked up some smoked blue cheese and it's been sitting in our refrigerator ever since (What? Like it's going to go bad? It's already gone about as bad as it can go.) while we've been trying to think of how best to treat it. Tonight Andy remembered this dish, and it was an absolutely perfect way to showcase the strong flavors in the cheese.

Penne with Fennel, Tomato and Blue Cheese
(From Vegetarian: The best-ever recipe collection edited by Linda Fraser)

1 fennel bulb
8 ounces penne or other dried pasta shapes (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups passata or tomato sauce
pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
4 ounces blue cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper.

1. Cut the fennel bulb in half. Cut away the hard core and root. Slice the fennel thinly, then cut the slices into strips.

2. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 10-12 minutes, until just tender.

3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the fennel and shallot and cook for 2-3 minutes over high heat, stirring occasionally.

4. Add the passata, sugar and oregano. Cover the pan and simmer gently for 10-12 minutes, until the fennel is tender. Season with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta and return it to the pan. Toss with the saucde. Serve with blue cheese crumbled over the top.

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