Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pasta with Shrimp and Fennel

Pasta with Shrimp and Fennel in white ramekin, overhead view on black

A Piquant Tomato Sauce Adds Full Flavor

Lots of us eat more fish this time of year.  Some are still following New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier.  And what’s healthier than fish and seafood?  For others, Lent means fish or seafood every Friday at a minimum, so new recipes are always welcome.   And some of us just crave the taste. 

Shrimp is a favorite of most seafood lovers.  Almost everyone likes its briny tang.  But in much of the US, it’s still cold, so we’re also craving hearty dishes.  Like a big, warm plate of pasta — which just happens to pair wonderfully with shrimp.

So why not combine the two in a spicy tomato sauce?  Then add some fennel (a perfect winter veggie) for extra credit.  The result?  A welcoming cold-weather dish with flavor that won’t quit.


Pasta with Shrimp and Fennel in white ramekin with napkin and fork

Recipe:  Pasta with Shrimp and Fennel

There are scores of recipes that combine pasta, shrimp, and fennel.  They seem to fall into two camps:  Some dress the ingredients only in a light olive-oil sauce (maybe adding a bit of lemon or wine).  Others feature a more robust tomato sauce.  This recipe is very much in the latter tradition.

For this dish, we make sauce from scratch, infusing it with the flavor of fennel.  If you already have some homemade red sauce on hand in the freezer or canning cellar, and you prefer to use that, I provide instructions in the notes. You’re not really saving much time, though, so I recommend making the sauce fresh for this dish.

Active prep time is a good 15 to 20 minutes (this includes sautéing the onion and fennel).  You’ll also need at least 30 minutes to cook the sauce, although you can cook the pasta during the latter stages of this.  So figure total time of 45 to 50 minutes (and you can cook the sauce a bit longer if you like; it’ll only get better). 

This recipe serves 4 to 6, and you can easily halve or double it (see Notes).  If you cook the sauce but don’t add the shrimp (Step 8), you can freeze the sauce.

Ingredients
  • 1 medium-to-large fennel bulb (close to 2 cups; you want one that’s about a pound)
  • 1 medium-to-large onion (once sliced, you’ll get a cup or a bit more; I like yellow, but use what speaks to you)
  • 4 - 8 cloves garlic (to taste)
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons olive oil (I use pure olive oil — the cheap stuff)
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste (freshly ground)
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ½ - 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram(see Notes for substitutions)
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes (you can also substitute whole tomatoes; crush with your hand before adding in Step 4)
  • 1 pound deveined shrimp, preferably 26 - 30 to the pound (fresh or frozen; you can substitute another size if you prefer — see Notes, plus Step 5)
  • 1 pound dried pasta of choice (I like a robust shape like rigatoni, farfalle, or shells for this dish, although spaghetti certainly works if that’s your pleasure)
Procedure
  1. Rinse off the fennel and remove the stalks and green tops.  Roughly chop some of the green fuzzy fronds, and reserve them for garnish (optional).  Using a sharp knife or vegetable peeler, slice off the root end of the bulb.  Cut or peel off the outer part of the bulb if it’s tough.  Cut the fennel bulb in quarters lengthwise, and then cut into thin slices (lengthwise).
  2. Peel the onion and cut in half lengthwise.  Thinly slice parallel to the equator.  Peel the garlic and slice thinly (you can also mince, but I think distinct pieces work better in this dish).
  3. Heat a large skillet (preferably nonstick) over medium heat  for at least 2 minutes.  When hot, add oil, and wait until warm (it will ripple slightly).  Add the fennel, onion, and garlic, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Sauté on medium-low until onion is fully translucent and begins to brown (about 10 minutes).
  4. When the onion is ready, add the fennel seeds and the crushed red pepper.  Sauté for 10 seconds.  Then add the marjoram and the can of tomatoes (if the skillet isn’t large enough, transfer the whole thing to a sauce pan).  Add some water if the sauce is too thick, and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 30 minutes (longer, if you wish).
  5. Meanwhile, if using shrimp that need to be deveined, do so now.  If using shell-on shrimp, shell now (or leave them in the shell, and your guests can shell at table).  I often use frozen shrimp for this recipe (see Notes), and generally buy the headless ones that have been partially shelled (the tail section still has its shell).
  6. After the sauce has been simmering for about 10 minutes, fill a 4-quart or larger pot ¾ of the way with water, and bring to a boil.
  7. About 8 or so minutes before the sauce is done, salt the pasta water (about a tablespoon), add pasta to the water, and bring to a boil.  Cook until al dente (the time required varies by brand and shape — usually 7 to 8 minutes for me).
  8. Add the shrimp to the sauce at the appropriate time for it to just cook through.  Fresh uncooked shrimp will take about 5 minutes to cook.  Frozen uncooked shrimp will require maybe 9 or 10 minutes.  Frozen precooked shrimp will need about 3 minutes or so to warm up.
  9. When the pasta is cooked, drain it.  If there’s room in the sauce pan, add it to the pan and toss.  Otherwise, add pasta to a large serving bowl, then add the sauce, and toss together.
  10. Serve with a garnish of chopped fennel fronds, if desired.
http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8385/8480816996_4197637ee5_o.jpg
Notes
  • If you prefer to use pre-made red sauce, here’s the procedure:  Simmer the fennel in water for a few minutes to soften it up, then add it to your red sauce and cook for 10 to 15 minutes to meld the flavors.  Then add the shrimp (Step 8). 
  • You can use cooked or uncooked shrimp for this recipe, either fresh or frozen.  In many parts of the country, “fresh” shrimp actually arrive at the market in a frozen state — so I usually just buy frozen.  Shrimp are often higher quality anyway if they’re IQF (individually quick frozen).  IQF shrimp are “blast frozen” soon after they’re harvested, so most of the flavor remains intact.
  • If using fresh shrimp, you’ll probably want to devein them (that dark line that runs across the top of the shrimp is its intestinal tract, or “vein”).  If you’re buying fresh shrimp, I assume you know how to deal with them, but I’ll briefly recap the procedure:  I always buy fresh shrimp in the shell, with the heads attached.  So I first pull off the head and legs.  Then starting at the end where the head was, I pull off the outer shell (usually leaving the bit at the tail end attached, to serve as a little “handle” if, as I often do, I elect to pick up the shrimp and eat it from my hand).  Then to devein, I use a small knife and cut a slit down the shrimp’s back, maybe ¼ inch deep or so.  You’ll see a black line (the vein).  I use the knife to remove it.
  • BTW, I often use frozen cooked shrimp.  The flavor is not as good as the uncooked, but when used in a dish with a sauce (or in a soup), I don’t notice much difference.
  • If at all possible, buy shrimp that have been harvested from the Gulf of Mexico.  They have the best flavor IMO.  They are more expensive than the imported kind, however.
  • If you don’t want to leave the shrimp whole, you can cut each one into 2 or 3 pieces — they’ll be closer to bite size that way.
  • You can substitute fresh marjoram for dried, or skip that herb completely and substitute another to your liking (oregano works well, as does fresh basil).
  • If you want, you can add a bit of wine (or dry vermouth) to this dish for some added zing.
  • Fennel combines well with olives, so you could add some of those (and perhaps capers), turning this dish into something Niçoise- or Provençal-style.
  • I don’t recommend adding cheese to this dish.  In Italy, the rule says never to add cheese to a pasta dish that contains seafood.  That’s a rule I often break, but in this dish the cheese detracts rather than adds, IMO.  You may think differently, of course.
  • As mentioned above, I prefer a chunky pasta shape for this dish — it holds the sauce better.  I used a store-bought campanelle for the batch I photographed (it’s shaped like a little bell or flower, and is a fun pasta).
Pasta with Shrimp and Fennel in white ramekin with napkin and fork
More, Please

“Lovely,” said Mrs Kitchen Riffs, as she sampled her plate of pasta.  “Shrimp and fennel are a natural combination, but I never think of fennel and tomato together.  It works so well, though.”

“Glad you like it.  Because our next recipe for the blog, later this week, is going to be a fennel-and-tomato gratin.”

“A side dish?” inquired Mrs K R.

“Right,” I said.  “Although it’s so good, we could almost make it a main course.”

“Or just have seconds,” she smiled.  “That works too!”

My Mrs K R  — always flexible.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Fennel Soup with Shrimp and Beans
Poached Scallops
Scallops on Artichoke Scoops
Braised Fennel
Pasta e Fagioli
Pasta with Quick Tomato and Bacon Sauce
Homemade Pasta and Noodles
Pasta alla Norma
Fettuccine Alfredo
Pesto Pasta
Pasta Puttanesca
Singapore Noodles with Shrimp
Pasta Cacio e Pepe
Hungarian Noodles and Cabbage with Bacon
Old School Macaroni and Cheese
Summer Pasta Salad
White Bean and Tuna Salad
Tuna Pasta Salad
Tuna Noodle Casserole

80 comments:

  1. Oh yes, pasta is so good with shrimp! Tomato sauce with pasta and shrimp is one of my all time favorites! Every time I cook with shrimp I am faced with the dilemma: whether to completely remove the shell or leave some of it on, on the tail end, like you did.

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    1. Hi Julia, that shell question is tough, isn't it? When I leave them whole, I usually opt to leave a bit of shell on the tail, because the easiest way to eat them is to pick them up with your hand! Thanks for the comment.

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  2. I love shrimp with pasta and this looks like a delightful dish!

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    1. Hi Amy, don't shrimp and pasta combine so nicely? I love them! Thanks for the comment.

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    2. This is a very delicious and hearty meal, John. It is perfect for this cold weather we are having here in the U.S.. Wonderful comfort food. Thank you and have a good week, John!

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    3. Hi Ray, isn't this a nice dish? Very filling and satisfying stuff. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. What a beautiful combination of flavours :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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    1. Hi Uru, it's really an exceptionally tasty dish - a real winner. Thanks for the comment.

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  4. I do love the sound of that homemade spicy tomato sauce and I'm sure it would go perfectly well with many things besides this lovely looking meal. I do like the pasta you chose too. I think the addition of fennel would work beautifully with the prawns xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, the sauce does go well with other things. I particularly like it with some spicy Italian sausage (containing fennel, naturally!) added. Fennel has such an affinity for seafood that all the flavors in this dish really harmonize well. Thanks for the comment.

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  5. Seafood pasta has been one of my staples this summer, it's just so damn good! Thank you!

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    1. Hi Clare, seafood + pasta = happy mouth! Such a good match. Thanks for the comment.

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  6. Lovely recipe! I love a good shrimp and pasta dish :)

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    1. Hi Natalie, isn't shrimp and pasta a nice combo? Add some fennel, and it's magic! Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Gorgeous photo! Whoa, that's like the supermodel of shrimp. ;)

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    1. Hi Carolyn, isn't shrimp so photogenic? ;-) Thanks for your comment.

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  8. Oh, your Pasta with Shrimp and Fennel looks perfect. I love the refreshing flavor with the tomato and fennel. This is so gorgeous, yet so easy to prepare. :)

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    1. Hi Amy, this really is easy to prepare. Tons of payoff - flavor - for relatively little time and effort. Thanks for the comment.

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  9. Hi John, I have to admit I don't eat pasta and shrimp together, although I should definitely try it: it looks lovely (Mrs. KR is right!), especially your opening photo! I wonder if it could be made with any fresh pasta (not a big fan of store bought dry one)? Oh yes, fennel and shrimps go well together indeed!

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    1. Hi Marina, I'm sure you could make this with fresh pasta. I like good quality dried pasta as well as fresh, but there's nothing better than homemade pasta. Thanks for the comment.

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  10. Pasta and shrimp is always a wonderful combination. This recipe sounds delicious.

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    1. Hi Dawn, don't they work so well together? Truly good stuff. Thanks for the comment.

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  11. What an interesting combination of ingredients all the way down to the herbs. I've actually never seen (or noticed) a recipe that combines shrimp, fennel and pasta until now. I like it! It definitely looks delicious and the recipe, with all that garlic and even more fennel with the seeds, makes this dish very exciting and one to try! I don't see marjoram used much and when I do, it's usually in small quantities because it has such a overpowering flavor; however, I can see how it could complement the fennel to make a unique taste. Since I grow marjoram, I'm always looking for another recipe that uses it. This one's getting pinned. Thanks John!!!

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    1. Hi MJ, I don't think this is a big mainstream type of pasta dish, but it's definitely out there - I've seen quite a few versions. Think clams with spaghetti in red sauce, and you're just substituting shrimp, and adding fennel. I don't use a whole lot of marjoram, but lately have been playing with it - it has wonderful flavor. Thanks for the comment.

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  12. I really need to learn to cook more with fennel, its just something that I never buy. Those shrimp (prawns here in Australia) are huge. The dish looks robust perfect for a cooler night. Thanks

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    1. Hi Liz, I think shrimp are probably called prawns in much of the English speaking world! A lot of the photos are using a 4 ounce ramekin for the dish, so that may be making the shrimp look bigger than it actually is. Thanks for the comment.

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  13. This sounds delicious, John. Love the idea of a fennel-flavored sauce with a bit of a kick to it. I'm not a big fan of fennel seed, though, but I'll make do. :) I use shrimp in pasta all of the time, though most commonly with cream or olive oil. I do want to give this a try and you're right about making your own sauce. The time saved by using something previously made just isn't worth it. Thanks for a great post and recipe.

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    1. Hi John, you can easily drop the fennel seeds, and if you want a bit more fennel flavor, stir in a teaspoon or two of Pernod (or similar anise-flavored liqueur) right at the end. I've not tried pasta and shrimp with a cream-based sauce, but it sounds pretty good. The olive oil-based ones are wonderful, though tomato still is number 1 with me. Thanks for the comment.

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  14. Look at that wonderful dish! the shrimps, pasta and sauce all look perfect

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    1. Hi Raymund, it's really a great dish. Tasty, and rather pretty IMO. Thanks for the comment.

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  15. The fennel addition is really going to rock in this dish. Pasta, shrimp, fennel and a flavourful homemade sauce made by Kitchen Riffs. I am coming for dinner!

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    1. Hi Purabi, come to dinner any time! And make this dish yourself - it has such nice flavor. It'd be interesting to make this dish with Indian spices, and perhaps serve it with rice. I'll bet it would be pretty good. Thanks for the comment.

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  16. Your prawn and pasta dish looks amazing! I have been trying to eat a bit more seafood lately...and have been incorporating it into pasta dishes, they do go really well together :)

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    1. Hi Ali, don't seafood and pasta work so well together? And this dish is wonderful, IMO - something I think most people would like. Thanks for your comment.

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  17. Such a fresh and flavoursome looking dish. Great idea pairing it with pasta too.

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    1. Hi Christine, it really is an excellent dish. And the flavors work so well together. Thanks for the comment.

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  18. A scrumptious dish and wionderful flavor combination!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Hi Rosa, it's truly wonderful! Scrumptious is indeed how I'd describe it. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  19. I think shrimp, tomato, and pasta are such a great combination. Who can resist the juicy succulent shrimp with slight tang from the tomato sauce? I haven't tried the addition of fennel but I think it will be lovely. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hi Holly, the fennel adds such a nice undertone to the dish - it's not in-your-face, but there. Thanks for your comment.

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  20. Funny I have never had pasta, shrimp and fennel in one. Sounds like I have been missing out here and it's a quick dish. I need more of those these days, so you are kind of saving me some time with your recipe. Hope you had a lovely weekend!

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    1. Hi Helene, it's really a lovely combo of flavors - they all work so well together. This is also a great dish if you drop the tomato sauce and just toss in some really nice olive oil (maybe with a hit of lemon). Thanks for the comment.

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  21. I just got hungry! This is one of my favorite types of pasta dishes and looks amazing!

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    1. Hi Alyssa, this is such a swell dish - tasty, healthy, and just fun to eat. My favorite type of dish, too! Thanks for the comment.

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  22. I know you are the drink guy and now you are tuning into the fennel guy. That's a good thing because I like fennel. And I like the addition of fennel seed to really bring out the flavors.Easy and quick and delicious. Thanks!

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    1. Hi Abbe, I'm probably overdoing it with the fennel! But I love it so, and you can do so many things with it. Thanks for the comment.

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  23. This looks like a wonderful,healthy and delicious pasta dish.
    The combination of shrimps and spicy tomato sauce is so tasty, great idea!

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    1. Hi Daniela, it really is a great dish - so full of flavor! And anything with shrimp is wonderful, at least to me. Thanks for the comment.

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  24. oh my, this sounds wonderful and bursting with flavor, great combination!

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    1. Hi Chris, it is wonderful! Such a tasty dish. Thanks for your comment.

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  25. Since I am from the Coast of North Carolina I love any kind of shrimp recipe!

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    1. Hi Arthur, you have access to some great seafood where you live! Thanks for your comment.

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  26. Shrimps and fennel together sounds wonderful. It is important to know the source of the shrimps though. There's a lot of bad farming out there.

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    1. Hi Suzanne, there definitely is a lot of bad seafood farming out there. The best shrimp in the US, IMO, come from the Gulf of Mexico (other areas have high quality local shrimp available, but it often isn't shipped to the national market). It's also quite a bit more expensive than the imported kind; but it's worth it. Thanks for the comment.

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  27. Made some pasta earlier tonight. I now regret that I didn't Icheck out your recipe before I did that. I love shrimp and other seafood in my pasta! Will try yours next time. Thanks.

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    1. Hi Yi, you'll enjoy it next time. ;-) It's really worth trying, especially since you like the pasta and seafood combo. Thanks for the comment.

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  28. Great minds think alike, it is a shrimp week in the food blogging world! However, I love your Italian inspiration with the pasta, fennel and red sauce is a perfect marriage. Just to add to Susanne's comment above I agree that you really need to know the source of your seafood. The other day I bought some frozen shrimp from Vietnam and the water turned blue. I threw them away . How scary is that ? What are they putting into the shrimp to make them plump? So now I buy all of my shrimp still swimming. Happy Cooking and take care, BAM

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    1. Hi Bam, water turning blue from the shrimp? Weird. Great idea to buy your shrimp when they're alive! Alas, for most of us this isn't an option. And yes, there certainly are a lot of shrimp recipes at the moment - fun, isn't it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  29. I'm a total chunky pasta fan for this type of dish like you. And, for me it's definitely a tomato sauce that will win every time. Great recipe - and as always I'm loving the tips you give everyone to help recreate the dish.

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    1. Hi Amanda, this is a totally satisfying dish. And although it's a good cold weather dish, it works well in summer too - important for you at the moment, of course. Thanks for the comment.

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  30. Shrimp and fennel make such a delicious combination! I've gotten the picky hubby to eat shrimp, but he's still stubborn about the fennel/anise flavor. I'd have no trouble eating seconds of your wonderful entree :)

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    1. Hi Liz, just cook the sauce longer if hubby has problems with the anise flavor, and omit the anise seeds. When fennel is cooked longer, it becomes sweeter. And seconds of this are almost mandatory! Thanks for the comment.

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  31. What a wonderful combination of flavors - definitely putting fennel on my next grocery list. I never run out of shrimp :)

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    1. Hi Donalyn, I don't always have shrimp on hand, but usually. ;-) This is a truly nice dish - I think you'll enjoy it. Thanks for the comment.

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  32. I have never seen anything this beautiful before. The pasta and shrimp looks magnificently delectable. Love the robust size of both the pasta and shrimp!

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    1. Hi Judy, isn't this a nice combo of both flavors and looks? Truly good stuff! Thanks for the comment.

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  33. Campanelle pasta...hmmm ....I don't think that I ever saw that one before. They look beautiful and when accompanied with shrimp in a spicy sauce looks irresistible. I got to learn about one more kind of pasta today. Thanks Mr. Riffs.

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    1. Hi Shibi, my local supermarket has been offering champanelle in a brand I often buy for the last few months. It's a fun shape! Thanks for the comment.

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  34. John, after seeing so many posts of your using fennel, I must try fennel for once...I cannot believe that I have been missing something so good...this pasta dish looks beautiful...and so well presented...Mrs. Kitchen Riff is very lucky!
    Have a wonderful week!

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    1. Hi Juliana, it's definitely worth your while to give fennel a try. It has a lovely flavor, and it works well in so many dishes. Thanks for the comment.

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  35. I would not have thought to combine tomato sauce and fennel together either, but it does sound intriguing! This pasta dish sounds healthier, and full of gorgeous flavors. I wish I loved fish more, I like it, so don't eat it enough. We do love grilling shrimp though:-) Your dish sounds fabulous, Take care, Terra

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    1. Hi Terra, it's a wonderful combo - well worth trying. Actually you could make this, and just add grilled shrimp - that sounds like a pretty good dish! Thanks for the comment.

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  36. I love another fennel bulb in the recipe! We had pasta tonight as we had a busy day with kids activities, and the day like this really need more variations of pasta. I love your recipe and would like to save it for another day!

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    1. Hi Nami, this is a wonderful recipe, and I think you and your family would like it. Thanks for the comment.

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  37. Looks and sounds like a delicious dish. The fennel flavors go so well with seafood.

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    1. Hi Karen, isn't fennel an excellent match for seafood? Pork and other meats, too, but it's magic with seafood. Thanks for the comment.

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  38. You have definitely been on a fennel run :) I say this on every post where you've featured it recently but I have to try some of these recipes! I need to expand my fennel usage.

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    1. Hi Food Jaunts, what can I say, I found a good thing and am really getting into it? ;-) This is another good recipe - well worth trying. Thanks for the comment.

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  39. I love how all your posts are so detailed and informative. I really learn a lot coming here.

    And this shrimp dish is seriously tempting!!! I can't wait to make it.

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    1. Hi Tia, it's pretty hard to resist shrimp, isn't it? Thanks for your kind words, and comment.

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