Pasta with Sausage and Fennel
I’ve never been a huge fennel fan, and for just that reason, I planted two fennel plants in my garden. I figured that if I could harvest it personally, I could figure out how to showcase its unique flavor.
Ideally, if one loves the anise/licorice flavor, fennel is eaten raw, shaved in a salad, for example. But I thought that gently sautéed and caramelized in olive oil, with pasta and sausage, would still highlight this unique plant properly.
Harvesting the fennel is just a matter of pulling it out of the ground. I read that the fennel bulb should be the size of a tennis ball.
The recipe is not mine – I found it on Epicurious.com, and adapted it slightly.
Orecchiette with Sweet Italian Sausage and Fennel
1 fennel bulb, about 7 ounces, plus some fronds
12 ounces orecchiette
16 ounces sweet Italian sausage
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside, along with 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
Heat some oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the sausage until lightly browned and cooked just through.
Remove the sausage to a bowl and set aside.
Add the fennel slices and saute them in the remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel softens, about 5 minutes.
Continue to cook, adding a little wine as necessary to prevent the fennel from sticking to the skillet. You might have to do this a few times. The resulting fennel should be soft and caramelized, about 15 minutes more.
Add the cooked pasta and reserved liquid to the skillet, along with the sausage. Stir well and let cook, until the liquid has reduced to a creamy sauce, about 4 minutes.
Add Parmesan and season again if necessary.
Also sprinkle some of the fronds over the pasta.
The fennel still reminded me of Pernod, which I dislike, but it was better slightly caramelized and cooked in the wine.
The Parmesan wasn’t in the original recipe, but I felt like it needed cheese.
Heavy cream would also be a fabulous addition!
This is a great recipe, Mimi. I love fennel and eat it all the time – raw in salads or cooked – but I know its strong flavour is pretty much a love or hate thing. I love that you grew it in your garden to see if you liked it more – well done you! And I’d want to add the Parmesan too :)
Hahahaha! I guess that does sound odd – growing something I dislike! But it was good braised. I wish I enjoyed that flavor more.
I love fennel, especially braised, so this is right up my street. Well done for growing it!
Thanks! I just realized it does seem odd to grow something you dislike! Oh well. And there’s one more in the garden…
Send it to me! No, I think it’s quite brave of you to grow something to test it … at least you know now that you really don’t much like them in any form. Have you tried braising it with lots of other Med-style veg to soften the flavour or would that just spoil the other vegetables for you? Lx
This looks sooo good, just looking at it makes my mouth water!
I ended up serving it to friends and everybody really loved it! Like, a lot!
This is such a classic combination, Mimi! I love it, and I hope it opened up your relationship with fennel. Another great recipe for fennel (which even fennel haters loved) is Ottolenghi’s chicken with clementines and arak. It’s phenomenal!
I’ll have to check that recipe out. I still don’t love fennel, or Pernod! but cooked this way was a definite improvement over raw.
‘Cocoa & Lavender’- that recipe by Ottolenghi sounds very interesting- I’ll have to check it out!
The recipe looks amazing! I like fennel in food or in tea. It gives a “unique” taste :-) Lately, I used it for preparation of pork shoulder with fennel and rosemary.
That sounds wonderful – especially the rosemary!!!
How wonderful to be able to stroll out into one’s garden and pick up fennel to be used that same day? Lucky you! I think you used it pretty well in this recipe.
Thank you! It was funny to me how much everyone really loved it!
I love fennel and Pernod but my husband doesn’t. Your pasta dish looks fantastic , maybe my husband would eat it without knowing that it was fennel.
Ha! I even tried Pernod in France, thinking that might help. It didn’t. The fennel in this is very mild, so he might not catch it!
I think fennel – like dark chocolate – is an acquired taste that comes with age :-D . I used to despise fennel, but about 6 years ago tried it very thinly sliced and caramelised, and I loved it, even though I hate anise and licorice.
I had no idea dark chocolate is an acquired taste! But fennel certainly is. Caramelized, however, it’s very good!
Yes, I learned a couple of years ago that the older you get, the more your palate appreciates dark chocolate. Although I’m likely at the age when that should have already happened, I still can’t stand 50+ % chocolate :-)
Oh, very interesting!
Oh well done on growing it. I wanted to grow some but all companion guides say to plant it on its own with a lot of spacing. So that was out. Lovely recipe and I would add parmesan also!
Thank you! I just planted it and it grew.
This is such a great dish! I’m a big fan of fennel, alas, can’t always get nice fresh ones and the one you have here. Now I’m even more motivated to look for it. :)
It seems like most people like fennel. My company absolutely loved the pasta. Like really loved it!
I make a pasta very similar to this with rapini (another veggie that takes some palate re-education for some folks). Like your fennel, a little heat makes a lot of difference. GREG
I am not sure I’ve ever had rapini. I’ve certainly never seen it at my local grocery store, but I’m always worried they won’t have cilantro! I have to be happy with what does show up!
I’m visiting a friend tomorrow who has a big family garden full of vegetables, among which is also fennel, I can take some and prepare this dish, thanks for the recipe :)
You are so welcome. I’m also glad I used the wine instead of water!
I LOVE fennel so this is a definite must try for me!! I usually eat it raw or toss it in a salad but so delicious oven roasted when paired with potatoes! Can’t wait to try this dish, it looks and sounds amazing Mimi😊
Ooooooh – fenne and potatoes sounds wonderful!
Classic combo and so delicious, but then I love aniseed flavours. Pernod needs loads of ice!
Pernod is just strong!!! But it’s pretty!
Kudos to you for planting the fennel and cooking with it! I’m not a huge fan of it either, but I found roasting it really mellows it out a lot. Cheese was a great addition too.
Roasting sounds smart. Someone suggested potatoes and fennel together, roasted, and that sounds really wonderful.
Some impressive fennel! I love fennel and we often just have it roasted with other veg. Like the idea of having it with pasta, though as I’ve not tried it.
Roasted fennel sounds really nice!
I happen to love fennel and orecchiette! I also have fennel in my yard but just leave it as I heard it attracts butterflies!
Oh interesting. Well I’ve got one more fennel plant out there, but I think I’ll make this pasta again, which is odd for me to do but everyone really loved it!
This recipe looks delicious- I often slice the fennel thinly with a mandoline slicer to get the flavor but not to be too overwhelmed by it!
I actually should have done that. I just went about chopping it because of the various shapes in front of me!
I love this Mimi! It’s great that you grew it yourself. Like you I’m not a big fan of anise flavours, the smell of Pernod makes me gag! I have grown to like fennel in small amounts though. I like a mild hit of it with Italian sausages and recently had it in an apple slaw which was great. I must try braising it next.
I’m glad I used white wine instead of just water. Or even chicken broth would be an improvement on the recipe. I think they were trying to make it a 3-ingredient recipe! Pernod is really awful. Worse than cough syrup!
I have to agree! Food still has to taste good, a short ingredient list is not the way to sell a recipe.
Right, and that’s not what got my attention. So silly.
Sounds absolutely delicious! We love fennel – either shaved thinly for salad or sauteed in dishes like this, though my favorite is in a vegetable soup with onion, garlic, red & orange peppers and canellini beans. Mmm!
Well that soup sounds wonderful. I’ve got another fennel plant growing so maybe that’s what I’ll make next!
LOVE fennel! And this is such a classic recipe, and perfectly done. Try fennel sometime in a gratin. Or soup!
With potatoes… yes.
I absolutely love fennel (and licorice). This dish looks so classy and delicious yet the ingredient list is do-able. I really like the fennel pic in your garden, very nice! Take care.
Thank you Stacey! I really appreciate that!
Heavy cream would be good, but I think it looks good as-is. I’ve never used the fronds. They look fantastic.
OMG I’m like you and never tried fennel! I like that you grew it. This dish looks amazing and with a little cream sauce….yum!
I still don’t think I’d like it raw.