Skip to main content

Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Penne With Italian Sausage, Onions, Peas, and Fennel

Feb 25, 2015 01:59PM ● By Brandi Barnett

March Recipe

March 2015
By Lana Granfors
Photo: Betsey Walton

It’s your lucky day! Well, that is if you have been looking for a new pasta dish, perfect for a weeknight or Sunday supper. Also, if you have not tried fennel, this is a great way to try it. This recipe is easy and nicely represents the subtle flavor of fennel. It is a great base, easily adapted to your own taste. It’s really good with chicken and steamed asparagus, or make it vegetarian and add zucchini along with the peas. This pasta reheats nicely, but not sure you will have any leftovers to deal with!  Enjoy!

Serves 6-8

1 lb Penne pasta
1 lb sweet Italian sausage
1 large fennel bulb, about 1 pound total
¹⁄³ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, cut in half-moon slices
½ tsp salt
½ tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp fennel seeds
6 oz tomato paste
2 cup frozen peas
½ c finely chopped fennel fronds
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino or Parmigiano – Regiano cheese (additional for serving)

STEP ONE Heat a large pot of salted water, about 6 cups, to boiling for the pasta. Cook the pasta just until the penne is not quite al dente. Drain and reserve 3 cups pasta water. Toss penne with a little olive oil to prevent pasta sticking together.    

STEP TWO While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium- high heat. If using links, remove the sausage from its casing.  Break up the meat into pieces as you add to the skillet. As the sausage cooks, stir and continue to break it up, cooking until it begins to brown, about 3 – 5 minutes.   

STEP THREE While the sausage cooks, add the red pepper flakes and fennel seeds to a dry skillet and toast on high, about 1 - 2 minutes, stirring, careful not to burn.  Once toasted, stir into the sausage. 

STEP FOUR For the fennel, cut off the stalks, just at the top of the bulb, and reserve the fronds.  Remove any tough outer parts from the bulbs.  Slice the bulb in half lengthwise, removing core and then slice each half in ¼ inch thick slices.  Cut slices in half for about 1½ cups matchsticks of fennel.

STEP FIVE Push the sausage to the one side of the pan, and drop the onion slices into the clear part of the pan; sauté, stirring, until they sizzle and wilt, another 3 – 5 minutes, then stir them in with the sausage.  Push this to one side of the pan and drop in the fennel and heat to just wilting, about 2 more minutes.  Stir into the sausage and onions. 

STEP SIX Next, clear a spot in the center of the skillet and add the tomato paste and cook for a good minute of more, until it is sizzles and starts to caramelize.  Then stir it into the sausage mixture. 

STEP SEVEN Add about 2 cups of the reserved pasta water into the skillet, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, add the frozen peas and let cook until the sauce thickens, but not too thick, and the fennel is soft.   

STEP EIGHT Add the cooked penne into the simmering sauce. Toss everything together, sprinkle in the chopped fennel fronds, and continue to cook until the penne is perfectly al dente.  (Add more water if more sauce is desired.) 

STEP NINE Remove the skillet from the heat, sprinkle the grated cheese over the penne mixture and toss.  Serve the hot pasta right out of the pan or on the table in a large pasta bowl with additional grated cheese and freshly cracked black pepper. 

Total Time: 30-35 minutes
Prep: 10 minutes 
Cook: 20-25 minutes