This pasta was inspired by a night in Taormina during my honeymoon last month in Sicily. Macaroni gets tossed with cherry tomatoes, wild fennel, mint, and crumbled swordfish—a kind of maritime bolognese. I top it with toasted breadcrumbs, almonds, and fennel seeds, drawing inspiration from the many breadcrumb-topped pastas my husband and I devoured in Sicily, the olive oil that flows like water, the almonds that feed the island, and the fennel seeds that find their way into everything.
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (optional)
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped (about 4 teaspoons)
- 1 small fennel bulb, roughly chopped (about 1 cup), fronds roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 pound swordfish steak
- 2 pounds cherry tomatoes
- 1 pound any shape of macaroni pasta, such as casarecce
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a wide, nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs, almonds, and fennel seed, and season with salt and pepper. Toast, stirring often, until golden and crisp. Remove to a bowl and set aside, then wipe out the pan.
Combine garlic, fennel, fennel fronds, and mint in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until roughly chopped, 6 to 8 short pulses.
Return skillet to medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon oil. Season the fish with salt and pepper. When oil is shimmering, add fish and cook, turning once, until just cooked through and opaque in the middle, about 5 minutes total (more or less depending on thickness). Remove to a plate and set aside.
Return skillet to medium heat and add remaining olive oil. Heat until shimmering, then add the chopped garlic, fennel, and herbs to the pan, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the fennel is softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and heat through. Use a potato masher to burst the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until sauce is reduced but still chunky, 12 to 15 minutes.
While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted water until al dente.
Remove the skin from the swordfish and roughly chop. Add to the tomato and fennel sauce, along with the drained pasta. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 minute to allow pasta to absorb sauce. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve with breadcrumb mixture.