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
Salt
Olive oil
16 ounces sweet Italian sausage
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
White wine
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!

By Published On: June 12th, 201755 Comments

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!

55 Comments

  1. Travel Gourmet June 12, 2017 at 7:17 AM - Reply

    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 :)

    • chef mimi June 12, 2017 at 7:59 AM - Reply

      Hahahaha! I guess that does sound odd – growing something I dislike! But it was good braised. I wish I enjoyed that flavor more.

  2. Linda Duffin June 12, 2017 at 7:42 AM - Reply

    I love fennel, especially braised, so this is right up my street. Well done for growing it!

    • chef mimi June 12, 2017 at 8:00 AM - Reply

      Thanks! I just realized it does seem odd to grow something you dislike! Oh well. And there’s one more in the garden…

      • Linda Duffin June 12, 2017 at 8:04 AM

        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

  3. Courtney Livingston June 12, 2017 at 7:44 AM - Reply

    This looks sooo good, just looking at it makes my mouth water!

    • chef mimi June 12, 2017 at 8:01 AM - Reply

      I ended up serving it to friends and everybody really loved it! Like, a lot!

  4. Cocoa & Lavender June 12, 2017 at 8:08 AM - Reply

    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!

    • chef mimi June 12, 2017 at 8:12 AM - Reply

      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.

    • franflint61 June 14, 2017 at 4:37 AM - Reply

      ‘Cocoa & Lavender’- that recipe by Ottolenghi sounds very interesting- I’ll have to check it out!

  5. Vero and Canito in the kitchen June 12, 2017 at 8:40 AM - Reply

    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.

    • chef mimi June 12, 2017 at 10:44 AM - Reply

      That sounds wonderful – especially the rosemary!!!

  6. Loretta June 12, 2017 at 8:51 AM - Reply

    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.

    • chef mimi June 12, 2017 at 10:44 AM - Reply

      Thank you! It was funny to me how much everyone really loved it!

  7. Gerlinde @ Sunnycovechef June 12, 2017 at 8:56 AM - Reply

    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.

    • chef mimi June 12, 2017 at 10:43 AM - Reply

      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!

  8. Kiki June 12, 2017 at 10:25 AM - Reply

    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.

    • chef mimi June 12, 2017 at 10:46 AM - Reply

      I had no idea dark chocolate is an acquired taste! But fennel certainly is. Caramelized, however, it’s very good!

      • Kiki June 13, 2017 at 3:29 AM

        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 :-)

      • chef mimi June 13, 2017 at 6:21 AM

        Oh, very interesting!

  9. Our Growing Paynes June 12, 2017 at 11:43 AM - Reply

    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!

  10. Tasty Eats Ronit Penso June 12, 2017 at 11:52 AM - Reply

    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. :)

    • chef mimi June 12, 2017 at 12:21 PM - Reply

      It seems like most people like fennel. My company absolutely loved the pasta. Like really loved it!

  11. sippitysup June 12, 2017 at 2:23 PM - Reply

    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

    • chef mimi June 12, 2017 at 4:46 PM - Reply

      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!

  12. chefkreso June 12, 2017 at 2:35 PM - Reply

    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 :)

    • chef mimi June 12, 2017 at 4:46 PM - Reply

      You are so welcome. I’m also glad I used the wine instead of water!

  13. Marisa's Italian Kitchen June 12, 2017 at 5:47 PM - Reply

    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😊

    • chef mimi June 12, 2017 at 6:31 PM - Reply

      Ooooooh – fenne and potatoes sounds wonderful!

  14. ladyredspecs June 12, 2017 at 5:51 PM - Reply

    Classic combo and so delicious, but then I love aniseed flavours. Pernod needs loads of ice!

    • chef mimi June 12, 2017 at 6:31 PM - Reply

      Pernod is just strong!!! But it’s pretty!

  15. anotherfoodieblogger June 13, 2017 at 12:55 AM - Reply

    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.

    • chef mimi June 13, 2017 at 6:20 AM - Reply

      Roasting sounds smart. Someone suggested potatoes and fennel together, roasted, and that sounds really wonderful.

  16. chezlerevefrancais June 13, 2017 at 6:57 AM - Reply

    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.

  17. Abbe@This is How I Cook June 13, 2017 at 10:22 PM - Reply

    I happen to love fennel and orecchiette! I also have fennel in my yard but just leave it as I heard it attracts butterflies!

    • chef mimi June 14, 2017 at 6:35 AM - Reply

      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!

  18. franflint61 June 14, 2017 at 4:39 AM - Reply

    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!

    • chef mimi June 14, 2017 at 6:38 AM - Reply

      I actually should have done that. I just went about chopping it because of the various shapes in front of me!

  19. A Cookbook Collection June 14, 2017 at 8:13 AM - Reply

    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.

    • chef mimi June 14, 2017 at 8:38 AM - Reply

      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!

      • A Cookbook Collection June 16, 2017 at 3:50 PM

        I have to agree! Food still has to taste good, a short ingredient list is not the way to sell a recipe.

      • chef mimi June 16, 2017 at 4:48 PM

        Right, and that’s not what got my attention. So silly.

  20. elderjscott June 14, 2017 at 8:30 AM - Reply

    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!

    • chef mimi June 14, 2017 at 8:40 AM - Reply

      Well that soup sounds wonderful. I’ve got another fennel plant growing so maybe that’s what I’ll make next!

  21. kitchenriffs June 14, 2017 at 10:57 AM - Reply

    LOVE fennel! And this is such a classic recipe, and perfectly done. Try fennel sometime in a gratin. Or soup!

  22. 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.

    • chef mimi June 14, 2017 at 7:17 PM - Reply

      Thank you Stacey! I really appreciate that!

  23. Jeff the Chef June 25, 2017 at 6:14 PM - Reply

    Heavy cream would be good, but I think it looks good as-is. I’ve never used the fronds. They look fantastic.

  24. indianeskitchen June 28, 2017 at 9:57 AM - Reply

    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!

    • chef mimi June 28, 2017 at 10:55 AM - Reply

      I still don’t think I’d like it raw.

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