- Salt and pepper
- 1 pound penne rigate or other short-cut pasta
- 1/4 cup EVOO
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 fresno chile pepper, seeded and finely chopped, or 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
- 3 - 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 5 - 6 ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel or fennel pollen
- 1 cup fresh sheep's- or cow's-milk ricotta
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream or half-and-half
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving a ladleful of the cooking water.
While the pasta is working, in a deep skillet or large saucepan, heat 3 tbsp. EVOO, 3 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Stir in the fennel seeds for 30 seconds. Stir in the chile and garlic for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and season with salt, pepper and the ground fennel (or fennel pollen). Cook, stirring, for 20 minutes. Stir in the reserved pasta cooking water.
In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta, cream, thyme and remaiing 1 tbsp. EVOO. Season with salt.
Serve the pasta in shallow bowls with large dollops of the ricotta mixture for stirring in as you eat. Pass the remaining ricotta mixture at the table.