Pasta with sausage and fennel is one of our favorite pasta dishes, that I prepare on a regular basis. The flavors of the fennel, fennel seed, sausage, and pecorino cheese blend into one fantastic flavor. I like to prepare it with a pasta shape from Sardinia that is called gnochetti sardi or malloreddus because the dish hails from that island, but other short pasta like penne will also work. I’ve blogged about this before, but that post paid a lot of attention to making the pasta by hand, and so the delicious sauce was not getting enough attention. The dish is really good with store-bought short pasta as well, and then it is simple enough to make it on a week night, as it takes about half an hour altogether.
Good quality Italian pork sausage is an important ingredient. If you can’t buy it where you live, you can make it yourself. I make a large batch and then freeze it in single portions. If you can’t find pecorino sardo, then parmigiano reggiano is a good substitute.
Serves 2 as a full meal or 4 as a primo piatto (if you increase the pasta)
150-200 grams* short pasta, preferably gnocchetti sardi/malloreddus
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
2 tsp fennel seed
250 grams (.55 lb) Italian pork sausage, taken out of its casing
1 onion, chopped
80 ml (1/3 cup) dry white wine
30 grams (1 oz) freshly grated pecorino cheese, preferably from Sardinia (pecorino sardo)
1 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
* In Italy the amount of pasta used for this amount of sauce will usually be twice as much, but if the primo piatto of pasta is not followed by a secondo piatto of meat or fish with contorni (vegetables), then I use these proportions to have a proper meal in one course.
Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan. Add 2 teaspoons of fennel seeds and stir them for a minute until fragrant.
Add a chopped onion.
Cook over low heat until the onion is getting soft, stirring regularly.
In the meantime, trim the green top off the fennel, cut the fennel into 8 wedges, and cut the core out of each wedge as shown in the photo. Then chop the fennel wedges.
Add the pork sausage meat to the pan with the onion.
Increase the heat, and break down the sausage meat with two wooden spatulas.
Sauté the sausage until the raw color has disappeared.
Then add the fennel and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Stir over medium heat until the fennel is coated with the other ingredients.
Cover the pan and allow to cook over medium heat, stirring regularly. The heat should be high enough for some browning to take place.
About 5 minutes after adding the fennel, boil the pasta in salted water for the time indicated on the package for al dente.
After 10 to 15 minutes, the fennel and sausage should start to become golden brown.
Deglaze the sauce with 80 ml of dry white wine.
Stir with a wooden spatula, scraping the bottom of the pan to get all the flavor in the sauce. Make sure the wine has been reduced at least by half, so the alcohol will be burnt off.
When the pasta is al dente, drain and add to the sauce.
Add 30 grams of freshly grated pecorino cheese and a tablespoon of minced parsley.
Stir to mix, then taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Serve at once on preheated plates.
This is great with a Vermentino, a dry white wine from Sardegna. If you prefer red, then a Monica di Sardegna, which is a medium-bodied red wine from the same island.
If you like dark chocolate, you will love this dark chocolate crème brûlée.