You have no idea. I mean, how could you? How could you know that the most delicious thing ever is caramelized fennel? I didn't know until I saw it mentioned on some Food Network show and even then I was doubtful. Yet I planned a meal with it anyway and was rewarded with AWESOMENESS. Here's how you can get in on this...
For starters, get some fennel bulbs - two should be enough. You want ones that are firm and not brown; remember, you can store fennel bulbs for maybe two days in the fridge crisper, but not any longer. Anyway, you want to cut off the rough parts - meaning all of the greens - and then slice the white bulb into 1/8 inch thick pieces. You then boil the pieces in lightly salted water for about 5-7 minutes.
Next remove them from the water, pat them dry and place them into a shallow roasting pan with salt, pepper, LOTS of olive oil (I used a Spanish cold-pressed extra virgin), some Italian breadcrumbs and grated hard cheese - Romano, Parmesan Reggiano or what I went with - Grana Padano - will work. Then you bake the fennel at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. It will get browned, a little crispy and even slightly gooey (see photo).
For the pasta, I made a light sauce with some butter (maybe two tablespoons), the olive oil from the roasting pan and then placed the fennel over the pasta.
Served with fresh toasted onion pappardelle (found at the farmers' market but if you're not so lucky, try a fettuccine) and grated Romano cheese. Torn basil on top is optional.
PS - I am also considering other ways to incorporate the caramelized fennel into meals...perhaps a bruschetta appetizer or paired with oven roasted, bone-in chicken breasts. We'll see!