Pasta with Sausage, Onions, and Fennel

I don’t eat pasta all that often because, you know, the whole carb thing.  I’m not completely nutso about cutting out carbs but, knowing that I don’t work out as much as I would like and, acknowledging my sweet tooth, I feel like I should cut back somewhere.  Pasta drew the short stick.  What that means is I really make an effort to make pasta dishes extra special when I do have them.

This pasta dish was a celebration of anticipation.  I’m going to Venice, Italy this year for spring break and I cannot wait.  I just cannot wait to see the beauty of Venice.  I went once as a high school student and had an amazing time, but I know I didn’t appreciate it like I will this time.  I cannot wait to see the canals again, take in the architecture, immerse myself in the architecture and history of centuries old churches, and stare at priceless works of classical and modern art.  And I’m not gonna lie…I’m seriously pumped about taking in the food–espresso, gelato, cheese, seafood, and wine.  Oh, I cannot wait for the wine.  I plan to spend an entire afternoon (or two) sitting at whatever cafe I decide on, ordering wine and cheese, and sitting there until the bottle is empty.  That is the kind of luxury a teenager in Venice doesn’t comprehend.

Pasta with Sausage, Onion, and Fennel

from Lidia Bastianich, Lidia’s Family Table

**Note:  You need a very large skillet for this recipe.  I used my largest one and still wished I had one even larger.  Next time, I may try heating my roasting pan between two burners so I have more room to properly caramelize the ingredients.


1 TBSP plus 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided

1 lb. Ziti or penne pasta

1 large fennel bulb, cored and sliced into 1/4-in. half moons, fronds chopped and reserved

1/3 cup olive oil

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage (without fennel seeds) casing removed

2 med onions cut in half moon slices

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/2 cup tomato paste

reserved pasta water from cooking pot

1 c. freshly-grated Pecorino Romamo cheese

Directions: (rewritten to be more concise)

1.  Add 1 TBSP Kosher salt to a large pot of water.  Bring to a boil and cook pasta until al dente, reserve 3 c. cooking liquid, then drain.

2.   While water is heating and pasta is cooking, pour olive oil into large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage,
breaking up with wooden spoon until brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Push
sausage aside and add onion slices, saute until sizzling and wilting, 2
minutes or so. Stir onions into sausage and move to one side of skillet.

3.  Add fennel, saute
about 1 minute, then stir in with onion and sausage. Sprinkle in 1/4 tsp. salt and red pepper flakes.  Clear a good-sized hot spot int he center of the pan.

4.  Add the tomato paste in center and cook for a good
minute until sizzling and caramelizing, then stir into everything else.

5.  Ladle pasta water into skillet, stir well, and bring to boil. Add cooked pasta.  If sauce seems too thick add more pasta water.  Put in serving
bowl, sprinkle liberally with cheese, and garnish with fennel fronds.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. That Girl
    March 7, 2012 / 3:06 pm

    I'm jealous – we still haven't made it to Italy.

  2. Bridget
    March 7, 2012 / 9:54 pm

    Dave and I drank a bottle of wine over lunch pretty much every day in Italy…is that bad? 🙂 One of my favorite lunches on our trip was in Venice. We stopped at a shop (on some street…I have no idea) and bought crackers, boar sausage, a couple different types of cheese, olives, and champagne, then ate it on picnic tables that were in the street, so we could watch people walk by. Then we went across the street and grabbed some pastries for dessert. So much fun!Erm, the pasta looks good too, by the way. 🙂 And sadly, I've cut down on pasta and bread as well. The price we pay for those vanity pounds!

  3. Brittany Cooks
    March 8, 2012 / 3:59 am

    I have a Rustic Tuscan Apple Cake in the oven right now! Dreaming of Italy. I was there a year and a half ago for five weeks and I really miss it. The pasta looks great! 🙂

  4. Jessica
    March 8, 2012 / 4:09 am

    I work out solely so I don't have to make those sorts of difficult decisions. Granted my waistline would probably be smaller if I did, but I can't imagine pasta, sweets, cheese, or anything else drawing the short stick. :)This pasta sounds FANTASTIC!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *