October 28, 2010

Sausage, Fennel and Cream Pasta Sauce

This rich pasta sauce is great for fall, it has delicious sausage, the gorgeous taste of toasted fennel seeds, fresh herbs and cream.

2 Tablespoons fennel seeds
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove
1-2 carrots, chopped
2-3 celery ribs, chopped
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
3/4 lb. hot Italian sausage
3/4 lb. mild Italian sausage
1 cup white wine
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper

Heat a small pan, such as a small cast iron skillet, over medium heat.  Once the pan is hot, add the fennel seeds and toast for just one minute, they will almost immediately become brown and fragrant.  Stir or shake the pan while they are browning to promote even cooking.  Pour the seeds into a small dish and set aside to cool.

In a large dutch oven or similar pan, heat the oil and unsalted butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until translucent and wilted, about five minutes.  Add the garlic, either finely chopped or using a press.  Reduce the heat to medium low and cook for another five minutes.  Add the carrots and celery and cook for another five minutes.  Add the herbs and saute for 1-2 minutes. 
Next, you will add the sausage.  If the sausage is in casings, remove the meat from the casings and discard the casings.  Add the sausage to the pan and increase the heat to medium.  With a wooden spoon, use an up and down motion to break apart the sausage as it browns and cooks.  This will break it up into small, crumbled pieces.  Cook the sausage until there are browned bits on the bottom of the pan and some of the sausage meat has browned and caramelized.  Depending on your stove, you may need to increase the heat to medium high to accomplish this type of browning.  Add the wine, and cook until more than half of the liquid has reduced, this will take a few minutes. 

Meanwhile, open the can of whole peeled tomatoes.  Reserving the liquid, coarsely chop the tomatoes, removing and discarding the stem portion at the top.  Once the wine has reduced, add the tomato juice, chopped tomatoes and fennel seeds.  Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.  Taste the sauce, season generously with salt and pepper.  I prefer to use sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  Add the cream and stir to thoroughly combine.

You can serve this sauce with a variety of pastas, it would be best, however, with relatively short shapes with some hollow or concave dimensions, i.e. penne, orchiette, fusili and farfalle.  These types of shapes will hold small portions of the sauce.  This sauce may be frozen and eaten at a later date!  The freezer is your friend, it is the way you can eat home cooked meals when you don't have time to make them!  I love my freezer.

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