Caramelized Pancetta and Fennel Salad alongside Ravioli with Balsamic Brown Butter

I was craving a huge salad for dinner on Sunday night but somehow knew that everyone else would be wanting something more substantial so I combined this amazing warm-and-meaty pile 'o' greens with a sweet-and-tangy pasta dish. For the salad, roasting the fennel and the pancetta in the brown sugar mixture added a warm depth and sweetness to the caramelization and soon my kitchen was oozing the most fragrant aromas and the resulting high expectations from everyone for an outstanding meal.

I'd read that bacon could be substituted for the pancetta but I think it would alter the dish too much for my liking and be too greasy and too bacony. The less-familiar and light combination of ingredients of fennel and pancetta was what made this salad so special and a big hit with all of us. After explaining to the kids to expect the licorice taste of the fennel, Maddie seemed disappointed that it wasn't red licorice instead. Somehow that's not a taste often found in nature but she remains hopeful.

The pasta dish is quick, easy, and a nice change from our regular sauces, with hands-on time of less than five minutes. The only downside was that I was trying to do too many things at once while browning the butter and before I knew it I had blacked the butter instead. Luckily, it was such a quick process that I started again and was done before the table was set. The toasted walnuts were a nice crunch and the hit of protein that Q was looking for to round out the meal. Poor guy... He doesn't make many culinary requests but had been looking for something from that food group in this meal and the nuts had to fill the void. Nobody can say I don't listen and take direction.
Caramelized Pancetta and Fennel Salad adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
1 bulb fennel, halved and cut into 1/2 inch wedges
5 slices pancetta
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
6 to 7 cups mixed salad greens
Red Wine Vinaigrette, recipe follows
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
On a roasting sheet, toss together fennel, pancetta, garlic, brown sugar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook until the pancetta is crisp and the fennel is caramelized, about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, place the salad greens, crumbled pancetta and caramelized fennel. Toss the salad with the red wine vinaigrette and serve immediately.
 Red Wine Vinaigrette
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly
ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
 Mix the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper together. Gradually blend in the oil.

Ravioli with Balsamic Brown Butter
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
18 to 20 oz ravioli (whatever flavour you like... we used garlic and asiago)
6 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/3 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1/4 cup grated parmesan

Boil large pot of salted water. Add the ravioli and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until tender but still firm, stirring occasionally. Drain ravioli.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cook the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the foam subsides, and the butter turns to a golden brown, about 3 minutes, turn off the heat. (Keep an eye on it here... my first batch burned because I was multi-tasking and didn't pay attention.) Let cool for about a minute. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Gently transfer the ravioli to the pan with the balsamic brown butter and coat. Transfer to a large serving dish, sprinkle walnuts and parmesan on top, and serve immediately.
Rest of the week

April 8 Went out for Indian meal at Amaya

April 9 Ate popcorn at matinee so wasn't hungry for dinner and all the kids were out too

April 10 Fennel Salad and Ravioli with Balsamic Brown Butter

April 11 Spaghetti Squash with Sausage, and Bruschetta with Greens and Asiago


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