Garganelli with Lobster and Caramelized Fennel Purée

November 16, 2015
12 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This recipe is meant to highlight the amount of flavor that you can coax out of two simple bulbs of fennel. By cooking the fennel slowly, caramelizing it, and surrounding it with all of its best friends (lemon, garlic, red chili flakes, and lobster), you will take a humble ingredient and create a dish that is luxurious, elegant, and absolutely delicious. —Josh Cohen

What You'll Need
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Garganelli with Lobster and Caramelized Fennel Purée
  • 1 pound garganelli pasta (or your favorite short pasta shape)
  • 2 live lobsters (about 1 1/2 pounds each)
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 bulbs fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup torn basil leaves
  • Lemon zest
  1. Find a pot that is large enough to fit two live lobsters and fill it with water. Set the pot over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Lightly salt the water. Add the lobsters to the pot, reduce the heat so that the water is gently simmering, and cook for 7 minutes. Remove the lobsters and run them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Extract the meat from the lobsters (I prefer to use kitchen shears for this task). Cut the meat into bite-size pieces. Store the lobster meat in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and the red chili flakes. Wait one minute while the skillet gets hot, and then add the onions. When the onions are beginning to soften and turn translucent, add the fennel. Season with salt. When the fennel begins to soften, turn the heat down to low. You want to slowly caramelize the fennel and onion, transforming them into something very soft and sweet. When the vegetables are sufficiently caramelized, add the garlic and the white wine, increase the heat, and cook until the wine has almost entirely evaporated. Add the heavy cream and cook until the cream has partially reduced. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a blender and add the lemon juice. Purée until smooth. Add scant amounts of water if the purée is too thick. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. If you want, you can store this purée in the refrigerator for a day or two ahead of time before completing this dish.
  3. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package, except you should undercook the pasta by one or two minutes. While the pasta is cooking, set a large skillet over medium heat and add the fennel purée, stirring occasionally. When the pasta is cooked, transfer it to the skillet with the fennel purée, making sure to reserve a cup of the pasta water. Add a little of the pasta water to the skillet and stir. Add the butter and the lobster. If you know how to flip the pasta in skillet with your wrist, do that now. Otherwise, keep stirring. Add the almonds and basil. If the pasta looks too dry, add more of the pasta water.
  4. Taste the pasta while it is still in the skillet. Adjust the seasoning as necessary. Before serving, use a fine microplane to garnish the pasta with lemon zest.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Just Me and The Clams
    Just Me and The Clams
  • nancy essig
    nancy essig
  • Kate
  • Scribbles
  • Josh Cohen
    Josh Cohen

11 Reviews

Bea000 December 16, 2020
I thought this looked good but was worried the fennel would be overpowering but surprisingly ...It was underwhelming and bland. There was no dominant flavor, no layers. I followed the recipe except for the almonds. I also used casarecce pasta instead of garganelli. Casarecce is my favorite and pairs well with cream sauces, but I think it was too heavy for this recipe.
judy December 6, 2017
Well I love lemon. Am not a lobster fan. But I imagine this would go just as well with shrimp. And fennel is one of my favorite veggies. so this will be one to try, for sure. Thanks
Josh C. December 6, 2017
Hi Judy, let us know how you like this recipe with shrimp. I think it will work well!
Just M. August 9, 2016
This was great! The slow caramelizing of the fennel and onions was really nice, adding a mild sweet flavor to the lobster. I only had one fennel bulb from my CSA, but it was plenty for the taste.
nancy E. December 22, 2015
Fennel is my favorite and I love how you showcased it here. Will add to my "To Eat" file. thanks
Kate December 21, 2015
Recs for wine pairings?
Josh C. December 23, 2015
Hi Kate,

I would suggest a white Burgundy or a white wine from the Adriatic coast of Italy (from Le Marche, for example). Something with nice minerality that evokes the sea air.
Jeannie E. December 16, 2015
Thanks Josh, I think flipping sounds cool and fun.
For me, and anyone else who wants to know what you meant by flipping, and how to do it, here is a link.
Jeannie E. December 13, 2015
A couple of issues/questions with this recipe: what does the author mean when stating that the cook should flip the pasta with one's wrist if one knows how to do this...otherwise stir? Every recipe is, in essence, set of instructions. So if a flipping technique is required, please explain how to do it. Also, the last instruction in this recipe suggests a garnish, but the instruction before that says to eat it...perhaps reversing that order would be a good idea.
Josh C. December 13, 2015
Hi Jeannie, a flipping technique is not required. There are always numerous valid ways to arrive at a beautiful finished dish. You can mix together the pasta, fennel puree, lobster, and butter any way you like, and it will be great. Flipping is a fast and efficient way to mix the ingredients, and it looks cool. Flipping is also a complicated skill that takes practice to master, and it's not essential at all. When I tell the reader "If you know how to flip the pasta in skillet with your wrist, do that now. Otherwise, keep stirring" I am just being lighthearted/irreverent.
Scribbles December 12, 2015
This sounds divine and I can not wait to try it - I'm thinking a great New Years dinner for two.