Spaghetti with Fennel, Garlic Chili Oil, and Burrata

When I saw this recipe in a recent Sunday Times, I knew I had to make it. It’s pasta an burrata, my two most favorite things. This recipe is practically heaven sent.

[Exact recipe is as follows but I made a tweak or two, see below.] While you’re bringing water to a boil, crack 1 tsp fennel seeds with the flat side of a knife or a mallet or rolling pin…or whatever heavy thing you’ve got handy. Heat 3/4 c. olive oil with 1 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced fennel, 10 cloves of thinly sliced garlic, fennel seeds, and 3/4 tsp crushed red-pepper flakes in a large skillet over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, at which point your fennel and garlic will be all soft and the oil will be totally infused with flavor. While the oil is cooking away, the water should start to boil so throw in 1 lb whole wheat spaghetti and cook it according to the directions on the box. When it’s al dente, drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Reserve a few tablespoons of the seasoned oil and fennel mixture, then add the rest to the pot with the pasta and toss to coat. Divide the pasta and a big ball of burrata among four bowls. Spoon the remaining seasoned oil and fennel mixture over the top and season with flaky maldon salt and black pepper to taste.


  1. I didn’t use the fennel seed. Mostly, I didn’t want to buy a spice I would rarely use, but I also don’t love how anise-y fennel can be and I figured leaving out the seeds would curb that.
  2. I left the garlic smashed, not sliced, so I could easily pull it out. I love garlic but don’t love biting down on a hunk of it. A whole bunch of smashed/halved garlic cloves will give you a ton of garlic flavor – trust – but won’t leave you with the breath to ward off vampires. (It’ll still be garlic breath, just not the most offensive ever.)
  3. I used fresh pasta. Let me be clear that boxed pasta would be more than fine – it’s what the recipe called for – but I really felt like making some fresh pasta. And I gotta tell ya…if you ever have a choice between fresh and boxed…do you still call that a choice?
  4. Plating/Garnishing: I didn’t feel the need to reserve any oil – just tossed it all together and served in one big bowl because I like the wow factor of it all. Plus, it was fun to serve family style. That maldon salt goes a long way so I recommend keeping that bit in. I also garnished with some fennel fronds because…why not? They’d just get thrown out otherwise and the sprig of green looks nice.

Like I said, I’m not one for anise, but the fennel gets a bit sweet after being sautéed for 15 minutes. With my two favorite ingredients – past and burrata – at play, I figured I’d love this dish. AND I FIGURED RIGHT. Honestly, what could be bad?!