I came up with this recipe a few years ago when I discovered the deliciousness of fennel. I had leeks and chard to use up and found that pesto is a good way to tie all the flavors together.
Fennel Leek Pesto Pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium fennel bulb
2 large leeks
1 small bunch of chard
4 tbsp of pesto
penne pasta (whole wheat is my preference)
Opt. swiss or gruyere cheese,
Start water and salt boiling for pasta.
Use a mandoline, if you have one, to slice the fennel and leeks, otherwise slice very thin.
Put six or so handfuls of pasta in the water.
Heat up a large pan on medium high heat and add a tablespoon of oil, add the fennel and leeks, a pinch of salt, and another tablespoon of oil. Stir well. Take a 1/4 or so of boiling pasta water and add to pan. Stir often for the next 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, roughly chop the chard. Add to pan and stir in well. The mixture will get very soupy for a few minutes, but keep stirring. About the time the pasta is ready, the vegetables should be thoroughly cooked through. Add the pesto (to taste) and mix thoroughly. The result is going to look like a big lump of semi-squishy veggies,
Drain the pasta and add it to the pan. Mix into veggies and pesto very well. The veggies will come apart and spread nicely among the pasta. Taste it now to make sure there is enough pesto and/or salt. Add pepper if you like.
To serve: place in dish, add some finely shredded gruyere or swiss cheese (optional). I also like to add chili peppers and pine nuts.
This recipe makes enough for two-three big plates or four-five smaller plates--depending on the amount of fennel and leeks used.