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Put the pancetta in a large frying pan set over a medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until starting to turn golden. Add the shallots, garlic and fennel seeds and cook for another 2 minutes until starting to soften. Stir in the sprouts, season, then increase the heat a little and cook for another 6-7 minutes until softened and charred in places.
Meanwhile, simmer the penne in a large pan of boiling salted water for 11 minutes, then drain, reserving a cupful of cooking water. In a small bowl, combine the cream and lemon zest.
Remove the pan of sprouts from the heat and pour in the cream. Add the drained pasta and toss everything together with a splash of cooking water until evenly coated. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of grated pecorino, if liked.
Fennel seeds add a delicate anise flavour to this pasta dish, but you can take them out completely or replace them with chilli flakes if you prefer.
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