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May 8, 2023

Pasta with Roasted Fennel

Pasta noodles and red sauce have long been friends, but how about spaghetti with roasted fennel in a bright white wine and cream sauce? Divino!

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a bowl of pasta with roasted fennel made with garlic, white wine, heavy cream lemon juice & zest. topped with parmesan
Photography by Gayle McLeod

Pasta + Fennel a Love Story

Roasted fennel is one of those vegetables that caramelizes beautifully when cooked in a very hot oven. This pasta with fennel bulb recipe combines that irresistible sweetness with white wine, heavy cream, lemon, and a little chili flake to make a simple pasta dish that feels very luxurious, with a very approachable cook time. We’re thinking about this pasta, a loaf of Garlic Bread, and a nice Cae Sal on the side for dinner tonight!

pasta, olive oil, spices, white wine, cream, lemon juice and zest, fennel and parmesan in prep bowls for pasta with fennel

Ingredients You’ll Need To Make This Hearty Fennel Pasta

  • Fennel bulbs–We love fennel in all its forms (Roasted Fennel and Easy Fennel Salad are some sleeper hits) for the sweet, earthy crunch it brings to any dish it shows up in.

  • Noods–Is there ever a night we don’t want to eat pasta? Our answer is always more pasta please! Give us a simple bowl of Pasta Carbonara or a more elaborate dish like Champagne and Cream Clams with Linguine and we’re happy campers.

  • White wine–You know that old W.C. Fields’ line, “I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food”? That’s what we do when we make this recipe. Use a Sauvignon Blanc, something nice enough that you won’t mind drinking it after you add a cup to the sauce.

  • Heavy cream–This is a no-brainer for us, because heavy cream enriches everything it touches and highlights all of the other ingredients in a recipe. Our Tomato Soup is a testament to the power of heavy cream.

sliced fennel bulbs tossed with olive oil and salt in a large glass bowl
roasted fennel on a baking sheet

How to Make Pasta With Roasted Fennel

Here’s a few notes to get you started, and full details can be found in the Method section of the recipe.

  • Prepare the fennel bulbs. We like to use a mandoline slicer for this job. It makes it easier (and faster!) to get nice, thin slices than using a knife. Toss with olive oil and salt and roast it nice and hot until browned and caramelized.

  • Boil the pasta. We have thoughts on How to Salt Water that you’ll want to check out for this step. TL;DR It’s important to salt the pasta water correctly!

  • Make the sauce. Are you familiar with the pasta water trick? The water that you use to cook the pasta will be full of salt and starch and will add flavor and body to any sauce you add it to. You might be familiar with this method if you’ve made our Creamy Cavatappi Cacio e Pepe. We use a glass measuring cup for easy pouring.

  • Toss and serve. You’re gonna love this fennel pasta with heavy cream, onions and fennel seeds.

shallots, garlic and fennel seeds being cooked in a pan with olive oil
white wine and cream being added to a pan with cooked shallots, garlic and fennel seeds
shallots, garlic, fennel seeds, white wine, heavy cream salt, pepper & lemon zest cooking in a skillet
pasta noodles, roasted fennel and lemon juice being tossed with creamy pasta sauce in a skillet

Notes For Making This Simple Fennel With Pasta Recipe

  • What about the wine? Maybe you don’t have a bottle of white wine around, or don’t want to cook with wine, but still want to make this recipe? You can use chicken or vegetable broth as a substitute for wine and it will still be delicious.

  • Finocchio, the Italian word for fennel, is a commonly used ingredient in Italian cuisine. It shows up in sausage and meatballs (like our Italian Baked Chicken Meatballs), and is often eaten raw after dinner to aid digestion.

  • Leftovers–Pasta can definitely be frozen. It’s generally best to freeze noodles and sauce separately, but if you’ve already mixed everything together and find yourself unable to eat everything (it happens), then we suggest freezing in an easy-to-reheat container.

a bowl of creamy pasta with roasted fennel topped with fresh parmesan and red pepper flakes on a plate

Our Best Pasta Recipes

Do you love pasta with fresh fennel sauce as much as we do? Silly question, of course you do! Here’s a few more of our favorite pasta recipes:

For more recipe inspiration you can follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest. Have you tried this recipe? We love when you share your meals. Tag us on Instagram using #themodernproper. Happy cooking!

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Pasta with Roasted Fennel

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time:  15 min
  • Cook Time:  30 min
  • Calories: 535

Ingredients

  • 2 large fennel bulbs, thinly sliced and fronds reserved
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces long pasta, such as spaghetti
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt, plus more for serving
  • 2 large shallots, sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1½ teaspoons fennel seeds
  • ¾ cup white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste, plus more for serving
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • Red pepper flakes, for serving (optional)
  • Grated Parmesan, for serving (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F with a rack in the center position. Place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven while it preheats.

  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to package instructions. Reserve ¼ cup pasta water and drain.

  3. Meanwhile, add the fennel, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and ½ teaspoon of the salt to a large bowl and toss to coat. Once the oven is preheated, carefully remove the baking sheet. Add the fennel to the sheet in a single layer. Return the sheet to the oven and roast until browned, about 10-12 minutes.

  4. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is glistening, add the shallots, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and fennel seeds and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Stir in the white wine and cook until reduced by half, about 4 minutes more. Stir in the cream and bring to a simmer. Add the lemon zest, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Stir in the reserved pasta water and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 6 minutes.

  5. Add the pasta, roasted fennel, lemon juice, and pepper flakes, if using, to the pan and toss until well combined.

  6. Divide the pasta between 4 plates and garnish with the fennel fronds. Sprinkle with pepper and Parmesan if using.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories535
  • Protein8 g
  • Carbohydrates50 g
  • Total Fat31 g
  • Dietary Fiber7 g
  • Cholesterol80 mg
  • sodium530 mg
  • Total Sugars10 g

Pasta with Roasted Fennel

Questions & Reviews

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  • Merrie

    Quite possibly, THE best vegetarian pasta dish we have ever made or enjoyed in a restaurant. Five stars ~ I would give it 10 if I could! There is so much depth of flavor in every bite. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe. If you love fennel as much as we do ... you will be on cloud nine with this gorgeous dish!

    Thanks Merrie, so glad you loved it!

  • Murray

    Dang I added a little smoked chicken and some olives to this and it made my toes curl. Five star recipe for real!

    Thanks Murray, we are so glad you loved it!

  • Katie

    Delicious and so easy! I just banza spaghetti pasta and it turned out great!

    Thanks Katie, so happy you loved it!

  • Jenn

    This pasta was really good, I really enjoyed the white wine sauce. I have never cooked fennel and was a bit nervous about adding it but it was absolutely delicious, so glad I didn't leave it out!

    Thanks Jenn, so glad you tried it and liked it!