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Author Notes: Fennel. Be still my heart. Perhaps the first time I tasted it was when I tried a quick, simple recipe from Cooking Light magazine: ground pork, fennel, onion, fresh Roma tomatoes, garlic, fennel seed, oregano, cayenne pepper and a couple other ingredients. Nice, but not fabulous. I made it once as written and over the years, fine-tuned it into my go-to comfort pasta sauce. This is my latest iteration, inspired by a lovely veal ragout at a local restaurant. But the possibilities are endless: add a shallot or red pepper, leave out the carrot, celery or cream, tone down the cayenne if it's not your thing, replace the wine with chicken broth. This is the first recipe I've posted and I'd love to hear your thoughts! —Maddiescook
- 1 large bulb fennel (or two small), chopped (reserve fronds)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, small dice
- 1 celery stalk, small dice
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound ground pork
- 4 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1 28 oz can Roma tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3/4 cup good red wine
- 1/4 cup cream
- Heat large saute pan over medium high heat (you can add a little olive oil or cooking spray if you want). Add fennel, onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes.
- Add pork and next seven ingredients (sugar through salt) and cook until pork is no longer pink, stirring well, about 7 to 10 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, squishing with fingers (or breaking up with a wooden spoon. Personally, I like to squish). Stir in tomato paste and wine.
- Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Simmer, partially covered, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Stir in cream (or half & half). Simmer until heated through.
- Serve over penne. Top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and garnish with fennel fronds, if desired.
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