Spicy Spaghetti with Fennel and Herbs


I’ve made a few alterations to this dish, which was good but not great in our opinion. The fennel was originally cut into largish wedges, which while pretty, was far too much fennel per bite. I’ve instead advised chopping the fennel, which in turn reduces cooking time and amount of broth used. I’ve also added more spice, because we thought the original recipe didn’t deserve the adjective “spicy” in the title as was.


8 servings

Prep Time

0 hours, 10 minutes

Cook Time

0 hours, 20 minutes


  • 1 three-ounce package pancetta (Italian bacon), chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 large red (or green, if necessary) jalapeño chiles, seeded, finely chopped
  • 2 large fennel bulbs, stalks trimmed, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound spaghetti (We used whole wheat spaghetti)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups finely grated Pecorino Romano or Pecorino Toscano cheese, divided


  1. Sauté pancetta in large skillet over medium heat until pancetta is golden. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels. Add 1 tablespoon oil to drippings in skillet. Add garlic and chiles; sauté over medium heat 1 minute. Add fennel; cook until beginning to soften, 5 minutes.
  2. Mix in broth, 2 tablespoons parsley, lemon juice, and fennel seeds. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until fennel is very tender, 10 minutes. Add extra chicken broth as necessary to keep slightly moist. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cook pasta until tender; drain. Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot.
  4. Uncover skillet with fennel mixture and return to high heat. Cook until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 4 minutes. Add fennel to pasta. Stir in 2 tablespoons oil, 1/2 cup cheese, and pancetta. Add cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if dry. Toss pasta; transfer to serving bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons parsley over. Serve with cheese.