words LUCY OHLSEN
The inspiration for this sauce comes from an unexpectedly, indubitably disgusting source: the dish pit at the Shedd Institute. I was deep in dirty dish land, up to my elbows in ranch dressing grease, sporting a rotten sponge-scented waterproof apron. I prepared to avert my nasal cavity as I yanked a big honking pot towards the sink. Upon a violent spray, the crusty remains of some sort of red pasty mess exuded a spicy, sweet aroma that made my head turn right back around with an unabated vigor. The scent made me think a dapper young Italian chef had suddenly stepped behind me, spoon in hand, white apron rightly smudged with tomato juice, and smiling lips ready to spurt some spectacularly punctuated, amore filled sentences. I swooned in that way only a quality pasta sauce, a good hike, and a steamy romantic spark of potential love can induce a swoon.
Unfortunately, reality came back pretty strong as I reluctantly scraped out the flavorful red scraps from the bottom of the pot. My Italian chef disappeared, but thanks to the fairy of a chef Jesse, I was able to put together a list of ingredients in order to fully induce the passion I felt must be hidden within that sauce. Its components are a little unconventional for me. I don’t usually find my taste buds are too friendly with fennel, and I would never peg orange juice as something to jazz up a sauce. With a little burst of braveness, I convinced myself to throw everything in the pot, and I now full-heartedly embrace fennel as a sometimes spice.
The sauce provides an ultimate nom with pasta, and topped with parmesan cheese. From inadequate internet research, I’ve gathered that the sauce is loosely based on something called ciappini, which also involves seafood. So the sauce is also amiable with really any sort of fish.
2 heads baby fennel
1 medium yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
½ red pepper
1 Tbs olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
sage, a few leaves fresh and chopped, or 1 tsp dried
2 tsp chile powder or flakes