The Ingredients: This photo shows: 1 orange, crushed red pepper flakes, olive oil, a 28-oz. can of crushed tomatoes, a 1-lb. box of penne, some bay leaves, some salt, 1 onion, 1 bulb of fennel, 2 cloves of garlic, and some parsley.
Peel and chop the onion and the garlic cloves. Cut off the fronds of the fennel and chop the bulb. Grate up the orange zest. (Tomorrow, I'm going to juice the orange and drink it with breakfast.)
Put some olive oil and a pinch of salt into a big saucepan (this is my trusty Dutch oven) along with the onion, the garlic, two bay leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon of the crushed red pepper flakes.
Turn on the heat, give this all a stir, and get it cooking. Meanwhile, put the penne in a pot of water and start that cooking.
After a couple of minutes, the stuff in the saucepan will have sauteed nicely. The onion will go all soft, and the garlic will turn golden.
At this point, add the fennel, toss it around to mix it with the rest of the stuff in the saucepan, cover the pot, turn the heat down a little, and cook for five or ten minutes.
Add the can of crushed tomatoes and the orange zest.
Mix everything up and set the pot to simmer.
The sauce should simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes. By a cooking miracle, this is about how long it will take the penne to cook through, assuming you started from cold water at the same time as you started the sauce. At any rate, the timing of the sauce is flexible. Just don't let it burn. While all this is cooking, take a handful of parsley:
And chop it. I love freshly chopped parsley, but I absolutely hate chopping it. This is why I love my herb vroomer, which was a birthday present from my best friend. The herb vroomer is a little mini food processor that attaches onto a motor handle. You plug it in, put in the parsley:
And press the button. VROOOOOOOOM. Voila! Chopped parsley.
Meanwhile, the penne has cooked! Drain it.
Mix it into the sauce.
Sprinkle a little parsley on top, and serve it up with a glass of red wine. Come an' get it!
I love this recipe. It's just so goshdarned useful. It's not all that expensive, but it is kind of unusual. It's healthy and delicious. The sauce is vegan, so you can serve it to just about any guest, but it's not the kind of meal that requires meat, so your meat-eating guests won't feel deprived. You can serve it on its own, as I did tonight, or you can make a nice company dinner out of it by adding a green salad and some bread. When I was told that a Cordon Bleu-trained chef would be showing up at my house for dinner, this was what I made for him, and he deemed it Tasty Indeed.