My pantry

Pork and Fennel Pasta Bake…..just a little bit fancy

December 11, 2012

pork and fennel ing Out here in the Boondocks there are not so many great restaurants. I guess after living in Sydney’s dining epicentre, we were always headed for gustatory disappointment moving to the ‘burbs, but we live in hope, because even sub-urbanites need to eat, right?

For my birthday, back in July (July 7th, feel free to send gifts, money and/or champagne), Mister H and I ventured forth to one of the most expensive and well known dining spots in our locality.

People had talked it up as one of the best, if not THE best restaurant in these here parts, and my man thought he’d give me a little birthday treat.

Let me preface this by saying, we don’t mind paying for great food, and great service is always such a delight…..did we experience this here?

Not so much.

The service was a tad underwhelming and the food was, well, it most certainly wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as great as the price would suggest.

One of the things we ordered was a pork ragout and something timbale. I thought that sounded interesting. I have an extensive experience in fine dining as I worked in about a gazillion great restaurants, so I know the lingo. I knew what to expect when I see the word timbale, but what I didn’t expect was pasta bake.

With a fancy name.

pork and fennel dex

That was a tad well-done and over-caramelised on the edges……..burnt pasta bake.


Mister H tried brains, they were ok if you’re into that kind of thing (I’m so not), and the mains were good. Dessert was by far my favourite with an apple tarte tartin and some kind of yummy ice-cream (it was a while ago, I’ve eaten a few meals since!), but I will never forget that regrettable pasta bake.

I thought today I’d show those guys how to make an uptown pasta bake.

pork and fennel to cook

Yield : 6 serves

What you will need :

  • 120g speck or bacon, chopped
  • 600g minced pork
  • 1 spanish onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 350g penne pasta, or whatever shape floats your boat
  • 420g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 red capsicum, sliced
  • 1/2 cup red wine, or white if that’s all you have
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 heaped teaspoon fennel seeds
  • a good handful of fresh herbs like parsley, and/or oregano
  • 100g cheese, grated

If you want to go right uptown, you can add a layer of béchamel. Black Water did not…..nor did I this time, but I have before.

This time I just did a super thin layer of simple white sauce, flavoured only with a bay leaf.

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • a cup and a half of milk
  • a bay leave
  • salt and pepper

Melt butter in saucepan, add flour and stir. Leave to cook for a few seconds. Add milk and whisk to ensure no lumps. Toss in bay leaf and season and continue whisking until it thickens to coat the back of a spoon.

pork and fennel fini

What to do :

Fry up onion and garlic in a large heavy based pan. When translucent, add your speck and cook until fragrant and a little browned. Add your fennel seeds.

Toss in your pork and stir until cooked through. Throw in your capsicum, tomatoes, tomato paste and wine. Stir well to combine.

Chuck in your herbs and season to taste. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer with a lid on for about half an hour until sauce is thick and rich.

Meanwhile, pop on a pot of salted water and getting it to a rolling boil. Add your pasta and cook according to packet instructions.

Drain pasta and toss it into your finished sauce. Toss well to ensure all is well coated and throw into your oven dish

I did a really quick little white sauce that was about half the amount described in my bechemel recipe as I only wanted a thin layer rather than a lasagne type layer, but if you want to keep it simple, just throw on some cheese and be done with it.

Bake in the oven on 200C until it is browned and delicious looking.

Take that Black Water……that’s how you do an uptown pasta bake.

pork and fennel dex 2



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  • Reply sybaritica December 11, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Looks great. I *love* fennel seed in pasta sauces!

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys December 11, 2012 at 7:50 am

      How good is it? I get tired of basil and oregano, so fennel and parsley is my new favourite…..especially with a big hit of chilli!

  • Reply Margriet Barnes December 14, 2012 at 6:58 am

    It was lovely Danielle, had your dish tonight and everyone including daughter loved it! Will be having left overs tomorrow for lunch.. Although I might be having a bit more tonight..

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys December 14, 2012 at 7:47 am

      Brilliant!! I love hearing success stories!!!

      Thanks so much for letting me know xxx

      Sent from my iPhone

      On 14/12/2012, at 6:58 AM, Keeping Up With The Holsbys

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