Chef and Writer Gail Monaghan wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal about Fennel.
Inspired by one of her recipes, I combined Cheese Tortellini with Fennel, Apple/Chicken Sausage and Tomato and the result was delicious. Gail’s recipe called for Penne, which I did not have, and Sweet Sausage; my partner in the kitchen, Sous Chef Susan, prefers the Apple/Chicken Sausage.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Remove outer layers of 2 large bulbs fennel. Finely chop fronds and set aside. Roughly chop bulbs and stalks and toss with 2 yellow onions, cut into thin half moons, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes. Roast in a baking pan, stirring frequently, until tender and golden, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make sauce: In a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat, cook 2 pounds sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled, until cooked through, 10-15 minutes. Strain sausage and discard grease. Return sausage to skillet. Add one 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes and ½ cup coarsely chopped mixed fresh basil and parsley and simmer until most liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add ¼ cup heavy cream and roasted vegetables and simmer, stirring, 5 minutes more.
Meanwhile, cook pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add 1 pound penne and cook until al dente. Drain penne, reserving 1 cup cooking water. Return penne to pot, add vegetable sauce and cook to heat, stirring occasionally, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, add¼ cup grated Parmesan, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and½ cup coarsely chopped mixed fresh basil and parsley, chopped fennel fronds and 1 teaspoon fennel pollen (optional). Serve with more grated Parmesan on the side.