Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Fennel, Leek and Sausage Pasta

This is pretty quick to put together once you've gotten everything chopped & sliced. The French mise en place is one of my favorite cooking concepts-- get everything ready in those cute little prep bowls (except I don't really have any, so I make piles or use mugs), and then you're not pounding garlic at the last minute while the oils overheats.

You'll need (serves 4-6):

1 1/2 lbs pasta-- we used orecchiette (ear-shaped) and campanelle (bellflower-shaped)
1 large (28oz) can peeled tomatoes & their juices
3T tomato paste
1c half & half
1 very large leek (or 2 smaller ones)
5 shallots (or 1 onion)
6 cloves garlic
2 large bulbs fennel (2 lbs)
1/2c sun dried tomatoes
5 uncooked sausage links (about 1.3 lbs)
1c grated parmesan, and more for serving
2T fresh marjoram, chopped, plus some for serving
1T cumin
1t red pepper flakes
2t dried oregano
1/2t cayenne
1t fennel seeds, toasted

Boil salted water for the pasta.

Clean your leeks by slicing them through the root, lengthwise, almost to the dark green top. Then turn and slice again, so the leek is split into quarters but held together at the top. Wash well and shake dry. Slice off root and discard; then slice thinly. Stop at the dry dark green tops.

Slice shallots or onions and fennel. You don't need to remove the fennel core-- just slice very thin.

Saute everything in 1T butter + 2T olive oil, salt & pepper, until brown and caramelized.

In the meantime, slice garlic & sun dried tomatoes. Add them to the pan when ready, with all the dried herbs & spices. Saute until fragrant (about 3 minutes), then push everything to the sides of the pan and add the tomato paste to the middle. Let brown a bit (2 minutes), then stir together.

Push to the sides again. Squeeze the sausage out of its casing into the middle of the pan (if you're using a low-fat sausage like turkey or chicken, add some oil first). Add marjoram and more cumin if you want. Saute, breaking up sausage, until brown. Stir together.

This would be a good time to put the pasta on.

Add tomatoes in their juices and break them up with the back of a wooden spoon. Stir to combine everything and cook until liquid evaporates, about 6 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Then add half-and-half (or cream!) and stir together; simmer until cream thickens and the whole thing starts looking like a sauce. Then add grated parmesan, stirring to combine.

Mix pasta with sauce; add a sprinkle of marjoram for color, and serve with more parmesan.

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