Some of my favorite pasta sauces are savory ones with sausage as a base. Sausage goes so well with everything: cream, broccoli raab, spinach, squash, fennel. I guess it goes well with just about everything. Making fresh sausage at home is really quite easy and so much better than store bought sausage with all its secret ingredients. I’ll post our recipes for making fresh sausage soon. For now, enjoy this recipe with sausage and bulb fennel, or finocchio in Italian. Though we’ve eaten finocchio for years, this summer is the first we grew it at the farm. It’s a lovely ingredient and quite under-appreciated. Make sure to select a bulb with some of the feathery fronds for garnish.
You can take this recipe in two directions. With butter and parmigiano or with olive oil and pecorino, in which case a little hot pepper is nice as well. Add tomatoes to the recipe, and you have something very similar to what Mario Batali serves at Lupa in Greenwich Village.
1) Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt.
2) Add 4 ounces penne or other tubular pasta and cook until al dente.
3) While the water is heating up, brown about 1 cup sausage or so (about 1/2 pound) in a generous bit of cooking fat (see above). If the sausage releases a lot of extra fat, pour some of it off.
4) Dice up half an onion and add it to the pan, stir to combine and lower the heat a bit.
5) Dice up about 1/2 fennel bulb (or a whole one if small), and add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper (either black or hot, see above).
6) Cook for around 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender and a little colored.
7) Add a little liquid (broth or pasta cooking water), deglaze, and remove from heat.
8) When the pasta is ready, drain and return the sauce to heat. Add the pasta to the pan. Toss quickly but thoroughly and serve at once, garnished with freshly grated cheese and some chopped fennel fronds.