Ziti with Sausage, Onions and Fennels

Cover of "Lidia's Family Table: More Than...

Cover via Amazon

Lidia Bastianich is to Italian cooking what Julia Child was to French cuisine. I recently purchased “Lidia’s Family Table: More Than 200 Fabulous Recipes to Enjoy Every Day – With Wonderful Ideas for Variations and Improvisations.” Not only is this cookbook concise and clear, but it offers explanation and insight into why certain techniques, pastas and ingredients are used.

Anyway you slice or cook it, I adore fennel. When I come across a recipe that has fennel as one of the primary ingredients, my brain comes to a screeching halt as my taste buds begin craving this sweet herb. So naturally, when I was pouring over my new cookbook, I immediately earmarked this page in anticipation of trying this recipe.

Lidia Bastianich explains how each element of the dish is toasted to help coax the natural flavors from each ingredient. While the sauce perfectly coats each noodle, some may think the dish should be saucier. In fact, in Italian cuisine, pasta is one of the key ingredients and in this dish it is allowed to shine.

This dish is extremely simple, yet flavorful. It is perfect for a quick weekday meal, yet elegant enough to entertain guests. I served the pasta alongside a mixed arugula salad with a balsamic walnut oil dressing

Ziti with Sausage, Onions and Fennel
by Lidia Bastianich

1 tablespoon sea salt
1 pound hot Italian sausage
1 large fennel bulb with stem and fronds (about 1 pound), trimmed and halved lengthwise
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, halved and sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 pound ziti
fennel fronds
1 cup Romano, Parmesan or grana padano cheese, freshly grated

Salt the pasta water and bring to a rapid boil. This is important, boil approximately 5 cups of additional water (you will use extra).

Remove the sausage from the casing and break the meat up with your fingers. Slice the fennel into 1/2-inch slices. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and add the sausage, cooking, stirring and breaking it up with a spoon for 1 to 1 -1/2 minutes until it is sizzling and beginning to brown. Push aside and add onion slices and cook, stirring, until they are sizzling and wilting, about 2 minutes. Stir in with the meat.

Push aside and add the fennel and cook for 1 minute until wilted then stir with the other mixture. Sprinkle in half the salt and push to one side again. Add red pepper flakes and toast for 30 seconds, then stir them in. Move the mixture to the sides again, add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes until it is sizzling and caramelizing, then stir it into the sausage mixture.

Ladle 3 cups of the salted, boiling water into the skillet, stir well and bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 6 minutes until the fennel is soft but not mushy.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to the pan of boiling water, stir and bring back to a boil then cook for about 8 minutes until almost al dente.

Check the sauce, which shouldn’t be too thick–if necessary stir in more water. When the sauce is done adjust seasoning. When pasta is al dente, lift out of the pan with a spider, drain briefly and add to the sauce. Toss pasta with the sauce, add more pasta cooking water if too thick, sprinkle with fennel fronds and cook, tossing constantly, for 2 minutes until the pasta is perfectly al dente and coated with the sauce.

Remove the skillet from the heat, sprinkle the grated cheese over the pasta and toss to combine. Transfer to warm pasta bowls and serve.


One response to this post.

  1. I love fresh fennel so this recipe sounds really nice.


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