Fennel, Pepper and Onion Tomato Sauce


We had the last of the Crab Cakes (page 43) with Tartar Sauce (page 21), which I made with the last of the Roasted Garlic Aioli), and we had over-easy eggs on top.


Fennel, Pepper & Onion Tomato Sauce

Maria loves this vegetarian sauce because she doesn’t eat pork sausage but the sauce tastes like sausage (from the fennel seeds).


  • 3 to 4 tablespoons EVOO
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 bulb fennel, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced
  • 1 cubanelle pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 red Fresno chile, thinly sliced
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (28- to 32-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes (look for DOP on the label)
  • A couple of fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 1 pound pepper-flavored spaghetti
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or pecorino or a combination
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


In a large skillet, heat the EVOO (3 to 4 turns of the pan) and fennel seeds over medium to medium-high heat and stir for 1 minute. Add the fresh fennel, onion, garlic, and peppers; season with and salt and pepper. Cook that out until the peppers and onions start to become tender. Add the tomato paste and stir until you can smell the paste. Add the wine, tomatoes (breaking them up with a potato masher or wooden spoon), and basil. Let that reduce partially covered until the sauce thickens a little and the vegetables are very tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Cover it and leave it on the stove until you’re ready to serve. When you’re ready to make the pasta, you can reheat the sauce over medium heat.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the boiling water and cook the pasta to al dente. Before draining, ladle out about a cup of the starchy pasta cooking water and add to the sauce. Drain the pasta and add to the pan with the sauce, along with the cheese and parsley, tossing with tongs 1 or 2 minutes for the flavors to absorb.

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