• Elizabeth Cornwall

Simple Nourishment for Nervous Stomachs: Pasta with Fennel

Nourishment in the age of pandemic or any time of stress calls for simplicity and delicacy. A piping hot Reuben sandwich at such a time can overload the digestion and mental clarity — I will share at a later time how I felt when I sat in front of one in Las Vegas. But when one needs nourishment and quickly, let me recommend a pasta dish with tummy-soothing fennel seed that gives your sauce a Italian sausage taste without the hard-to-digest sausage itself.

I always keep fennel seeds, Turkish bay leaves, pasta, and canned tomato paste, and sauce on hand. I have rosemary growing outside my kitchen door, and I highly recommend it. Onions, carrots, and celery are essential aromatics as well — what the Italians call the battuto or soffritto or the mirepoix in French and used in a 2:1:1 ration.

Try this quick recipe and see if you and yours are soothed.


1 medium carrot, finely diced

1 celery stalk, finely diced

1 small onion, finely diced

1 bay leaf

1–2 teaspoons sugar or to taste

splash or two of apple cider vinegar

copious olive oil

1 teaspoon or 2 of unsalted butter

1 can tomato paste

1 small can tomato sauce

1 box farfalle

1/2 teaspoon fennel

1-2 small sprigs of fresh rosemary added at the end

1/2 red pepper flakes

Start pasta water.

In an iron skillet, add the finely diced vegetables to the butter, olive oil, and bay leaf (who can measure, just add more as needed) over low heat. Sprinkle the sugar and stir constantly until vegetables are translucent. You can speed things along by adding — after 10 minutes or so — 3–4 tablespoons water and cover to sweat and soften.

Add tomato paste and sauce and stir on low. Include the fennel and in 5 minutes or so add the rosemary and pepper flakes. Serve forthwith!

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