I love recipes like this. Quick and simple, but full of flavor. There’s a little twist here – the ingredients are few and straightforward, but a little out of the ordinary. Pork and fennel are a classic combination, frequently in slow-cooked roasts and braises, and fennel seed is a key ingredient in Italian sausage, so using the fresh fennel just amps up the flavor. But this recipe weeknight cooking at its best. Fennel is such a bright flavor that shines next to the rich pork sausage. This takes no more time to make than a basic meat sauce (a little less in fact) but is a makes for an interesting change-up in the pasta dinner rotation. That being said, it is perfectly suitable for company, and can be doubled or tripled as needed.
I like to use a good, fresh Italian sausage from a local producer, but any version made with fennel seed works. Pappardelle noodles are wide and hearty and really stand up to the sauce. I find it pretty regularly at the grocery, but if you can’t, any wide noodle will do, even those curly ones in the bag.
- 2 medium fennel bulbs, the bulbs weighing about 10 ounces, with some fronds reserved
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 10 ounces Italian sausage, bulk or links with casings removed
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh fennel fronds
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- ½ teaspoon fennel seed
- 1 cup chicken broth
- ½ cup whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
- salt to taste
- 8 ounces papardelle pasta
- Remove the stalks and fronds of the fennel bulbs and set aside. Cut the fennel bulbs in half and cut out the tough center core. Very finely slice the fennel bulb, using a mandolin or a sharp knife.
- Coat a sauté pan with the oil, then add the fennel and the sausage meat. Cook over medium heat, breaking up the sausage with a spatula, until the fennel is soft and the sausage is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Stir in the chopped fennel fronds, oregano and rosemary and cook a few more minutes. Pour in the broth and bring to a bubble, then cover the pan and cook until the fennel is soft and the broth has evaporated, about 6 – 8 minutes, stirring a few times.
- While the fennel and sausage is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pappardelle according to the package directions. Right before the pasta is al dente, stir the cream into the sausage mixture and bring to a low bubble, just until heated through. Grate over the lemon zest, taste and add salt as needed. Drain the pasta and add to the pan with the sauce, tossing to coat.
- Serve immediately.