Make tonight’s dinner feel like a mini vacation to Italy with this quick pasta that pays homage to classic Italian flavors like sweet sausage, fennel, tomatoes, and fresh basil.
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.
Heat 1-1/2 Tbs. of the oil in a 10-inch straight-sided saute pan over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a metal spoon, until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a paper-towel-lined plate and pour off and discard any fat left in the pan.
Set the pan over medium heat and add the remaining 1-1/2 Tbs. oil, the fennel, and 1 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring, until the fennel softens and browns lightly, about 6 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the wine, and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits, until almost evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the sausage, tomatoes, half of the basil, the red pepper flakes, and 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper. Lower the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, 6 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the orecchiette in the boiling water, stirring frequently until just tender, about 11 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain well. Return the pasta to the pot, add the sauce, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for 1 minute so the sauce and pasta meld. If the pasta seems dry, add enough cooking water to moisten it to your liking. Stir in half of the pecorino, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve sprinkled with the remaining pecorino and basil.
Serve with a Classic Caesar Salad.
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Score, Tony Rosenfeld ! We used 2 cans of no salt diced tomatoes, and we had previously ground a pork butt and added the sausage seasonings, so we really had complete control over salt and fat. I added 1/2 tsp salt, that was it. Fennel, apparently, is a fall/winter vegetable, so I substituted celery and onion, and we had fennel in the sausage, anyway. We were lucky to have fresh basil growing, we used that, too. Costco has a flavorful and well priced pecorino Romano so that helped, too. Perfect summer dinner, especially on a rainy, windy evening.
Absolutely delicious and would make it for company!
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