Pic of Fennel and olive penne pasta with capers and lemon breadcrumbs

Fennel and olive penne pasta with capers and lemon breadcrumbs

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Vegetarian mains

Fennel and olive penne pasta with capers and lemon breadcrumbs

Main Serves 2 40 min
The light aniseed taste of fennel, which mellows with cooking, is a perfect partner to the sweet acidity of the tomatoes. Tomato's classic bedfellow, basil, has distinct aniseed notes in its flavour profile, too.

Cook's notes

Be cautious with the seasoning of this dish, the olives and capers will bring their own saltiness with them so adjust the seasoning at the very end of cooking.


  • 1 red onion
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 60g green olives
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 60g breadcrumbs
  • 200g penne pasta
  • salt and pepper


Prep time: 10 min
Cooking time: 30 min
  • Step 1

    Peel and slice the onion. Trim away and discard the stalk tops from the fennel bulbs and cut them in half lengthways. Remove the tough root core with a small V-shaped cut. Slice the fennel into thin, lengthways pieces.
  • Step 2

    Put the capers in a cup of cold water to soak. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in one of the saucepans. Add the onions and fennel. Cook gently, stirring often, for 15 minutes, until softened and lightly coloured. Add a dash of water if it looks like it may be sticking.
  • Step 3

    Meanwhile, peel and finely slice the garlic cloves. Slice the olives in half. Zest the lemon. Put a pan of well-salted water on to boil. Add the garlic to the fennel for the final 2 minutes. Then add the chopped tomatoes, fill the empty tin one third full of water and add that, too.
  • Step 4

    Drain the capers and add them to the fennel and onion pan along with the sliced olives. Let the sauce simmer away for 15 minutes. Put the frying pan on a gentle heat. Mix the lemon zest with the bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt, turning well so that the crumbs soak up the oil.
  • Step 5

    Fry the breadcrumbs gently, until lightly golden and crispy, turning often. This should take about 5 minutes. Add the penne pasta to the pan of boiling water and cook for 10-12 minutes, until tender.
  • Step 6

    Meanwhile, taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with a little salt, pepper and a small squeeze of lemon juice to your taste. Drain the pasta and mix through the hot sauce. Serve immediately with the crisp, lemony, salty breadcrumbs scattered on top.

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