Dining Al Fresco with Frank & Pardis Stitt
Delicious living is in store
If there is a king of Birmingham’s dining scene, it’s Chef Frank Stitt. A native of Cullman, Alabama, Stitt has cooked at some of the most iconic restaurants in the world, including the legendary Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA, with stops in southern France and beyond.
Walkable from The Tramont is his Italian-inspired escape, Bottega, which Frank owns and operates alongside his wife, Pardis. The Stitts have shared a recipe born from Bottega evenings that is perfect served on a Tramont terrace with some wine and great friends.
“This dish became a late-night favorite for us after a long day at the restaurants,” says Frank and Pardis. “The kitchen fills with warm aromas of fennel, cumin, garlic and hot chiles as tomatoes are added and simmered down to concentrate. Pull the cork on a bottle of Barbera, turn up the music and enjoy!”
Penne with Spicy Tomato-Fennel Sauce
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
- ½ fennel bulb, cut into ½-inch thick slices
- ½ leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced (optional)
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced
- One 28 oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes
- Grated zest of ½ orange
- ½ pound penne pasta
- ½ cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Several fresh sprigs of basil, marjoram, parsley, and/or oregano, leaves only
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel, and leek (if using), and sauté, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 8 to 10 minutes until softened.
- Add the garlic, fennel seeds, cumin, and jalapeño and cook until the vegetables are tender and the spices are fragrant, just a few minutes more.
- Add the tomatoes, crushing them with your hands or the wooden spoon with their juices, then add the orange zest and cook for 20 minutes, until the tomatoes have broken down and the juices have somewhat reduced.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat. Drop in the pasta, give a stir, and cook until the pasta is al dente.
- Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water. Toss the pasta with the tomato sauce and a little of the pasta water until thoroughly coated. Toss with some of the cheese and season with salt and pepper.
- Divide the pasta between two bowls and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, the fresh herbs (tear the bigger leaves as you add them), and the remaining grated cheese.
Whether you are finishing a neighborhood stroll at Bottega, visiting any of Frank and Pardis Stitt’s award-winning and nationally regarded Birmingham restaurants, or trying out this recipe on your own – delicious living is in store.