Easy Sausage-Fennel Penne (served with a confession)
Pasta is such a staple around here that it’s hard for me to remember whether I’ve shared certain pasta recipes or not. Several are good solid stand-by dishes–I’ve made them so often no recipe is necessary, and I know they will turn out to our liking.
This sausage pasta is one such dish. But before I convince you of how good it is, I have to tell you something about it. Are you ready? Here comes my confession:
The original recipe for this pasta comes from Rachael Ray (gasp!)
Are you still with me? Okay, so the food community seems to love Rachael or hate her (and my southern aunts are among the hate crowd), but I am completely ambivalent. Do I like some of her cooking ideas? Yes. Do I dislike some of her cooking ideas? Yes. Do I think she’s a culinary genius? No. But I don’t remember her ever claiming to be one.
In all fairness to the 30-minute meal queen, I picked up several useful tips from watching her show when I was a new wife, working a stressful full-time job, and trying to learn to cook edible meals. This pasta dish comes from that phase of my life, and I still really like it. For those of you who count yourselves among the Rachael-loathing readers, I’ll try to write my recipe instructions in such a way that could not possibly come across as obnoxious, and I’ll try to leave out measurements like “a big glug.” But I must give credit where it’s due. Love Rachael Ray? Hate Rachael Ray? I really don’t care. But this pasta is good, fast, and super easy. So there.
The Anisette or Pernod is probably not something you normally have on hand, but I can find it pretty cheap, so I just keep a bottle just for this dish. The flavor enhances the sweet licorice of the fennel in a way I can’t imagine anything else would. Oh, and if you’ve never cooked with fennel, please try it. I don’t much like it raw–too bitter–but it has a lovely sweetness when cooked that I find fresh and unique. It’s actually fennel month over at A Veggie Venture, so if you’re in the mood to try this feather-topped vegetable, head over there for Alanna’s round-up of fennel recipes. And, of course, if you’d prefer a slower, less committed introduction, this pasta might be just the thing to win you over. It did me.
Easy Sausage-Fennel Penne
1 pound penne
1 T. olive oil
1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage links
1 bulb fresh fennel
4 cloves garlic
1 small sweet onion
1/8 t. allspice
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup Anisette or Pernod liqueur
1/2 cup-1 cup white wine or chicken broth
1/4 cup half and half or heavy cream
Put the pasta on to boil. In a heavy skillet, squeeze the sausages from their casings, breaking them into crumbles. Brown the sausage over medium heat. Cut the stalks from the fennel bulb, reserving some of the feathery leaves for garnish. Remove the outer layer of the bulb. Mince the garlic, onion, and fennel all together (I do it in the food processor, but you can do it by hand too–very small pieces are what you’re after), and add the mixture to the skillet. Season with salt, pepper, and allspice. Cook, stirring, for about 7 or 8 minutes, until the onion and fennel are tender. Turn the heat up to medium-high, and add the 1/2 cup of the wine. Stir for a minute, then add the liqueur. Bring to a boil; then, reduce the heat. If too much of the liquid has evaporated, you can add more wine or broth. Stir in the cream. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Sppon sausage sauce over the pasta and top with freshly grated Parmesan and fennel leaves. Serve with a green salad, some crusty bread, and the leftover white wine.