Chicken Ragu with Fennel and Peas

Sometimes slowly developed, rich flavors over pasta is the perfect comforting dish on a snowy winter day. This dish is a riff on a recipe on Epicurious, modified to have some richer, bolder flavors and also a smaller portion size. This will serve about four.


  • 4 chicken thighs, bone-in with skin
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 3/4 C dry white wine
  • 1 C frozen (or fresh if you can get ‘em!) peas
  • 1 fennel bulb (diced)
  • 1/4 C fennel fronds
  • 1/2 C grated, fresh parmesan
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 C (approx.) chicken broth or stock
  • 1/2 C whole milk (or half & half)
  • 2 1/2 T butter
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 2 T parsley, chopped
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper

For the pasta, a good wide, thick noodle is best, either fresh or dried. We like using pappardelle. Make sure you properly salt the water (you want it to taste like the sea).

In a large dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium-high heat. When cooked to crumbly, remove and drain. Generously salt the chicken on both sides and place in the pan, skin-side down (they should sizzle nicely in the bacon fat). Cook for 4 minutes and then flip and cook for another 3. Remove the thighs to a clean plate.

Remove all but 2 T of the bacon/chicken fat. Drop in the chopped onion and half the chopped fennel. Stir and cook until golden – about 6-8 minutes. Add in the thyme sprigs and stir until you smell the aroma – 30 seconds or so. Add in the white wine and then reduce by half.

Add the thighs back to the pan (skin side down) and crumble in about half the bacon (munch on the rest or save it to top a salad). Add the chicken broth to just barely cover the chicken, and simmer, with the lid on, but not tightly sealed (you want a little evaporation).

Simmer for 30 minutes, flip the thighs and simmer for another 30 more.

Pull out the thighs (and the thyme stems). Add in the milk and reduce slightly to thicken the sauce. Once it reduces, season with salt and a good dose of pepper.

In a small pan, melt 1/2 T of butter and sauté the other half of the chopped fennel. Season with salt and pepper and get it nice and caramelized. Set aside.

Shred the chicken with two forks, discard the bones and the skin.

Get your pasta going and cook it – make it a little more al-dente than usual. Before you drain, reserve a 1/2 C of the pasta water.

Add the chicken, the peas and the parmesan back to the pan and stir for about 2 minutes. Add in the pasta, the 2 T of butter, the sautéed fennel and the chopped parsley and stir to coat.

Serve in a shallow bowl topped with shaved parmesan and the fennel fronds and a nice twist of fresh ground pepper. Enjoy!

Last time we made this dish, we served it with homemade focaccia bread and a nice wine – subtle but stunning!

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