Fall in love with this incredibly rich creamy pasta sauce that is filled with nourishing healthy ingredients: smoked mackerel in harmony with the aromatic fennel and a little kick of cayenne.
Instead of the classic cooking cream I use unsweetened soy milk that cooks together with the pasta creating a really rich creamy sauce that is low on fat. There are healthy fats added to the pasta from the fish added to the sauce, which then partly melts and enrichens the taste, and also sprinkled on top right before serving. I find the crispy bits so satisfying in the sauce I could not imagine this dish without the crunch of the fennel and soy beans. I used blanched soy beans in this recipe because they are nice and crispy but canned chickpeas work perfectly as well. The most important thing is that there is still a little bite to create a contrast to the creaminess of the overall dish.
If you would like to make this dish vegetarian or vegan you could use smoked cheese or tofu in the sauce, which would have a similar effect of making the sauce really rich.
The cayenne pepper and hot fresh pepper are added to the creamy sauce to highlight all the tastes that are combined in it. Use a small amount of cayenne first and add more after tasting if needed. It should not be overpowering just enough to bring a warmth in the aftertaste.
This is my go to recipe for when I want to get something delicious and comforting on the table, but have no time to fuss around in the kitchen. With all the ingredients almost ready to eat the dish is ready in less than half an hour including all the preparation, and there is only one pan to wash in the end (plus the plates unless you’re determined enough to eat straight from the pot).
Ingredients (serves two):
- ½ tbs olive oil
- 1 onion
- ½ fennel
- 1 medium hot chilli pepper
- 350 ml soy milk (other plant based milks or dairy milk work as well)
- 125 g smoked mackerel filet (you can use smoked cheese or tofu alternatively)
- 100 g small macaroni (I used gluten free rice `pasta elbows`)
- 140 g blanched soy beans (or cooked/canned chick peas)
- 50 g spinach
- A small pinch of Cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
Peel the onion and wash the fennel (keep green leaves of the fennel to decorate), slice them into similar strips (2-3 mm) and braise them on the olive oil in a smaller pan with high walls (it will be easier to cook the pasta in this). Wash and slice the pepper, add to the pan and braise for a few minutes. Add half of the fish, all the milk and pasta, stir it to avoid it sticking to the bottom and cover the pan. Mine was cooked in about 5 minutes, but it will depend on the type of pasta you are using. Check regularly, stir it and add water or more milk if it looks like the pasta took up all the liquids.
Rinse the spinach thoroughly and let it drip down in a sieve. Once the pasta is almost cooked (al dente) stir in the spinach, soy beans and the cayenne pepper to taste. Serve with the rest of the mackarel shredded on top and a few fennel leaves for the colour.