Zite with Sausage, Onions and Fennel

  • Currently 4/5
Lidia Bastianich/ Amateur Gourmet
serves 6
1 tbsp sea salt
1 lb sweet Italian sausage (no fennel seeds)
1 lg fennel bulb with stems & fronds (~1 lb), trimmed & halved lengthwise
5 tbsps EVOO
2 onions, halved & sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 lb ziti
1 cup Romano or grana padano
1. Boil water with salt until rapidly boiling.

2. Remove the sausage from the casing and break the meat up with your fingers. Slice the fennel into 1/2-inch slices. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and add the sausage, cooking, stirring and breaking it up with a spoon for 1-1 1/2 minutes until it is sizzling and beginning to brown. Push aside and add onion slices and cook, stirring, until they are sizzling and wilting (2 minutes). Stir in with the meat..

3. Push aside and add the fennel and cook for 1 minute until wilted, then stir with the other mixture. Sprinkle in half the salt and push to one side again. Add chile flakes and toast for 30 seconds then stir them in. Move the mixture to the sides again, add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes until it is sizzling and caramelizing, then stir it into the sausage mixture.

4. Ladle 3 cups of the salted, boiling water into the skillet, stir well and bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 6 minutes until the fennel is soft but not mushy. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the pan of boiling water, stir and bring back to a boil then cook for about 8 minutes until almost al dente.

5. Check the sauce, which shouldn't be too thick--if necessary stir in more water. When the sauce is done adjust seasoning. When pasta is al dente, lift out of the pan with a spider, drain briefly and add to the sauce. Toss pasta with the sauce, add more pasta cooking water if too thick, sprinkle with fennel fronds and cook, tossing constantly, for 2 minutes until the pasta is perfectly al dente and coated with the sauce. Remove the skillet from the heat, sprinkle the grated cheese over the pasta and toss to combine. Transfer to warm pasta bowls and serve

Oh well, this wasn't at all what I had at Lidia's, but it was still good. I did not use the fresh fennel, as I could not get sweet sausage without fennel seeds and I didn't want to be over-fenneled. It made a very nice rich, clingy sauce with good flavor, and a nice heat. I would use the same sauce basics with different combos of meat and veggie in the future. Definitely makes me want to get some Lidia's cookbooks!
Meal   DinnerCuisine   Italian
Dish   Main DishCooking Method   Sauteed
Main Ingredient   PastaStyle   One Dish Meals
Prep Time   less than 15 minutesCooking Time   1 hour

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