This dish was inspired by the combination of fennel and smokey, spicy sausage.
There’s something about the sweet licorice taste of the fennel, mixed with the salty, spicy, smokey, greasiness of the sausage.
Maybe I should have left out the greasiness part.
I had fennel and sausage in a dish a while ago, and I thought it would make a really great pasta dish. Fennel is really an underused ingredient (vegetable?) in our home – I guess I just can’t think of enough different ways to use it. It should be a regular thing here, I love the mildly licorice flavour.
I think it might be the resemblance to celery that keeps me away. I am not a fan of celery, and get freaked out by things that get stuck in my teeth. That’s one neurosis left over from the days when I had braces.
Sausage and fennel. Great combination of flavours, but not enough to make a meal (for me). I needed a couple of things to really bring this dish together. Looking for something green, I chose the spicy Arugula. I specifically picked the smaller variety, which tends to be a little bit spicier and stronger tasting than the larger leaf Arugula. I just tossed this into the pasta before serving, but I think you could serve it piled on top. You don’t want to overcook it, otherwise you risk losing quite a bit of the flavour.
Like all great things, I found my final inspiration while shopping at the market.
We visited one of the small cheese makers in the St. Lawrence Market farmers’ market. We tried a few cheeses, and then the guy shows us the Pecorino Fresco. I bought it without even trying it – just the look of it was making the wheels spin in my head. It’s a fresh cheese, with a bit of a tang. Think of a milder, less salty version of Feta, and you’ll have an idea of what Pecorino Fresco tastes like.
This was great crumbled on top of the dish, adding a freshness and creaminess (without having to make a heavy sauce).
I really enjoyed this dish, and think I’ll keep making variations on it until I get it perfect. I’m really intrigued by the idea of piling the Arugula on top of the dish when serving. I think this will make a really great summer pasta dish (especially if I opt to add the fennel in later on, leaving it a bit crunchier).
Pasta with Smoked Sausage, Fennel and Arugula
- Pasta, 4 portions (cooked as per instructions on package)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
- Hungarian sausage (smoked, spicy), cut into small chunks or slices
- 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 4 – 6 cups fennel bulb, sliced thinly
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 2 red bell peppers, chopped
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika (can use smoked if not adding smoked sausage)
- 2 teaspoons chili flakes (optional – if not using spicy sausage)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 pound Arugula (I prefer the smaller, spicier leaves)
- Pecorino Fresco cheese, to serve (can substitute feta cheese)
- Heat the oil in a heavy sauté or dutch oven over medium heat and brown the onion. Add the sausages and sauté for a couple more minutes.
- Add garlic, half of the fennel, paprika and chili flakes and cook until fragrant. Add about 1/4 cup of the stock first, to deglaze the pan, add the rest of the stock and cook for about 7 minutes with the lid on. Stir occasionally.
- Add the red pepper and the rest of the fennel, stir and cook (lid off) until they are almost soft (retaining a bit of their crunch).
- Add salt and pepper, to taste, and toss the pasta with the sauce.
- Toss in the arugula at the very last minute, and serve immediately. Top with some crumbled Pecorino Fresco and freshly grated black pepper.