Italian cooking has always carried on a love affair with fennel. Fennel and sausage have an ongoing love affair with each other. You will love them both in this special ragu.
Easy to Make Fennel Sausage Ragu
This is a very rich and flavorful sauce. Very hardy during the winter months. And fennel is always a great seasoning agent.
Start the sauce by taking a knife or some scissors to the casing of the sweet sausages. What you see above are what I had in my pantry: fennel seeds. To crush them, I put them in a small plastic bag and pounded them with the smooth side of a meat mallet.
Slice the ends off the fennel bulb, then remove the core from each half. Next cut the fennel into thin slices. Cut the celery too into thin slices. Cut a cleaned carrot in half length-wise, then cut those pieces in half. The carrot will add some sweetness to the sauce as it cooks.
In a large frying pan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil. Brown the sausage. I always use a potato masher to break up the meat into small pieces. As soon as the sausage browns, remove it to a plate and pour out some of the fat, leaving a film of fat in the pan.
You should have a sausage fond at the bottom of the pan. Scrape up the bits of fond and add two tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. When the oil is hot, add the minced garlic, the celery, the fennel seeds and a pinch of red pepper flakes and cook the mixture for 1 – 2 minutes until those flavors have been released. Add the fennel slices to the pan and cover. Cook at moderate heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. You want to make sure the fennel is good and wilted.
Add the crushed tomatoes, the carrot pieces and stir really well. Partially cover the pan and simmer the sauce for one hour. During that time, boil 5-6 generously-salted quarts of water. Cook one pound of pasta according to package directions. Here I’ve used one of my favorite pastas: fusilli lunghi.
Before draining, dip out one-half cup of pasta cooking water. Pour the water into the sauce and stir. Drain the pasta and pour it into the pan with the ragu. You can either toss out the carrot or eat it. (We eat it!) Gently toss the pasta with the sauce and serve with passed Parmigiano cheese. Delicious.
Fennel Sausage Ragu
Yield: Serves 8
Prep Time: One hour
Cook Time: One hour
Total Time: Two hours
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 4 Italian sweet sausages, casing removed
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 celery stalk, chopped fine
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
- 2 fennel bulbs, cut in half, core removed and sliced
- one 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- one carrot cut into quarters
- one pound fusilli lunghi
- Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large pan and brown the sausages, breaking up the meat
- Remove the meat when just browned and heat the remaining two tablespoons of oil
- Add the garlic, celery, fennel seeds and pinch of red pepper flakes and cook stirring for 1 - 2 minutes, until flavor is released
- Add the fennel slices and cook the mixture on moderate heat for 8 - 10 minutes until the fennel is wilted. Stir occasionally.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, the carrot and stir the mixture together. Simmer partially covered for about one hour.
- Cook the pasta in 5-6 quarts of boiling, salted water and scoop out one-half cup of pasta water before draining the pasta
- Pour the pasta water into the sauce and stir. Add the pasta to the sauce and gently stir the mixture together.
- Discard or eat the carrot pieces.
- Serve with passed grated Parmigiano.
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