Often a recipe that calls for Italian sausage will specify whether you should use links with fennel seed, here the choice is up to you. Sausages with fennel seed and the licorice flavor from the fresh fennel bulb will be intensified; pick those without, and the flavor will be quieter. Either way, the fennel bulb itself will become sweeter in the cooking and more mellow.
This recipe is by Joe Gray and was originally published in The Chicago Tribune.
- 1 Pound penne pasta
- 1 Pound Italian turkey or pork sausage, casings removed
- 1 large fennel bulb or 2 medium, about 1 pound when trimmed
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil, optional
- 1/4 Teaspoon salt
- 1/2 Cup dry white wine
- 1/2 Cup heavy cream
- 1 Teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
- 15 pitted kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
Step 1: Cook 1 pound pasta in a large pot of well-salted boiling water until al dente; drain, saving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
Step 2: Meanwhile, brown 1 pound sausage over medium-high heat in a large skillet, breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon; cook until no pink remains, 5 minutes. Transfer sausage to a bowl.
Step 3: Cut 1 fennel bulb into slices, about 1/4-inch thick; cut those slices crosswise into sticks, again about 1/4 inch. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet, if needed to cook the fennel. Add fennel; season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook over medium heat until softened and caramelized, 10 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup wine; cook to reduce by half. Add 1/2 cup cream, 1 teaspoon thyme and reserved sausage. Simmer until the sauce is thickened slightly, but still loose.
Step 4: Add the drained pasta to the skillet along with the olives. Toss to coat the pasta. Add some of the reserved hot pasta water if dish seems dry.