Orecchiette with Fennel, Sausage and Tomatoes {quick..family..comfort}

2012-11-18 18.41.58

Oh I’m telling you, I am cranking them out fast and furious now!  It does help that I am currently in between assignments at work, although today I am home bound with a most annoying cold.  And in my Daquil-induced haze, it took me about thirty minutes to just add text to my photo.  Oy..

Anyway, this recipe has an unusual twist from traditional pasta dishes, which frequently begin with a onion/garlic saute.  In their place is a generous portion of fresh fennel, sauteed to a mellow stage, beautifully complimenting the sweet Italian sausage and tomatoes.  Fresh basil and some piquant Pecorino Romano cheese brighten the dish.  It comes together in about 30 minutes, so it definitely qualifies as quick and well…it’s pasta so of course it’s comfort food!

For a healthy variation, you may certainly substitute turkey Italian sausage and whole grain or whole wheat orecchiette or medium shells.    And a glass or two of some nice sangiovese certainly would not hurt either.

Eat well and take your vitamin C.  I’m off in search of a big box of tissues  :-/

Orecchiette with Fennel, Sausage and Tomatoes {quick..family..comfort}

Kosher salt
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casing removed (or 3/4 lb. mild turkey Italian sausage)
1 large fennel bulb (about 1-1/4 lb.), quartered, cored, and finely chopped
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups fresh (or canned) seeded diced tomatoes, drained if using canned
12 basil leaves, torn into small pieces
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 lb. dried orecchiette pasta or medium shells
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.

Heat 1-1/2 Tbs. of the oil in a 10-inch straight-sided saute pan over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a metal spoon, until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a paper-towel-lined plate and pour off and discard any fat left in the pan.

Set the pan over medium heat and add the remaining 1-1/2 Tbs. oil, the fennel, and 1 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring, until the fennel softens and browns lightly, about 6 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the wine, and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits, until almost evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the sausage, tomatoes, half of the basil, the red pepper flakes, and 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper. Lower the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, 6 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the orecchiette in the boiling water, stirring frequently until just tender, about 11 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain well. Return the pasta to the pot, add the sauce, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for 1 minute so the sauce and pasta meld. If the pasta seems dry, add enough cooking water to moisten it to your liking. Stir in half of the pecorino, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve sprinkled with the remaining pecorino and basil.

Serves 4

2 thoughts on “Orecchiette with Fennel, Sausage and Tomatoes {quick..family..comfort}

  1. OMG! MAKE THIS!!
    Very easy to make this dish. I used Johnsonville Sweet Italian sausage as it is a favorite of mine. I also used fire roasted tomatoes which I drained very well. The fennel mellowed nicely in the wine as it reduced and gave a slight sweetness to the dish. Don’t be afraid to use a whole bulb.
    Again, MAKE THIS!!!

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