Simply Kid Chefs: Baked penne with fennel

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Our oldest was up and yet again he chose a yummy, comfort meal. Originally, he wanted to try another mix and match recipe but he came across this baked penne with fennel recipe from our cookbook and decided to give it a go.

He is becoming quite the pro in the kitchen! I still help with some of the cutting and keep a very close eye, but he is doing most of the work. His confidence continues to increase and he’s definitely enjoying the independence!

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I love his expression squeezing the tomato 😉

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Here’s the recipe from the Food Network:

Ingredients
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
1/2 pound pancetta, trimmed of excess fat and diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 28 -ounce can whole plum tomatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream
12 ounces penne
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 cup grated parmesan cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (about 8 ounces)
1 3/4 cups grated fontina cheese (about 6 ounces)

Directions
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 450. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring, until the fat renders, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour off the fat, leaving about 1 tablespoon in the pan. Add the onion and fennel and cook until the fennel is soft, about 5 minutes. Crush the tomatoes into the pan with your hands, then pour in the juices from the can and bring to a simmer. Fill the empty can with 1/2 cup of the boiling water and add to the sauce. Stir in the cream and simmer while you cook the pasta.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain and add to the sauce. Stir in the basil and 1/2 cup parmesan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, season with salt and toss.

Oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Layer the pasta, mozzarella, fontina and the remaining 1/2 cup parmesan in the dish, alternating pasta and cheese. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake, uncovered, until browned and bubbly, about 15 minutes.

Per serving: Calories 757; Fat 45 g (Saturated 22 g); Cholesterol 117 mg; Sodium 939 mg; Carbohydrate 56 g; Fiber 6 g; Protein 33 g

Recipe courtesy Food Network Magazine
Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/baked-penne-with-fennel-recipe.html?oc=linkback

The meal was a big hit. Even our youngest ate it – he’s anti-pasta but pro-cheese ;). Our youngest picked out a piece of fennel and asked what it was. I told him and he tried it. Turns out, he loved it and kept picking it out of the dish to eat. It is pretty tasty!

Clearly, not the healthiest meal, but there are plenty of ways to cutback. You could use less heavy cream or just use mozzarella cheese. We made the recipe as is and chose to eat light, healthy meals for the remainder of the week. It’s really about what works for you 🙂

Have you tried fennel? What’s your favorite way to use it? How do you feel about squeezing tomatoes into a dish?