Rigatoni with Fennel and Veal Sausage

March 26, 2013
1 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 2
Author Notes

How much fennel can be packed into one pasta dish? A lot, apparently! I used the fennel bulb, fennel fronds, and fennel seeds. The resulting dish is simple to make, but quite flavorful and springy. —Cristina Sciarra

What You'll Need
  • 1 fennel bulb (with fronds)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 veal sausages
  • 1 1/2 cups rigatoni
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 3 tablespoons plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup finely grated pecorino
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoons red pepper flakes, depending on your spice preference
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Freshly grated black pepper
  1. Cut the fronds away from the fennel bulb, reserving both. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer layer of the fennel bulb, and then rinse the fennel fronds. Now cut the bulb in half, lengthwise, and slice both halves as thinly as possible. (I used a mandoline.)
  2. Warm the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the fennel bulb slices, and sauté until wilty and transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the white wine, and cook just long enough for the wine to dissolve. Season with a touch of salt.
  3. Meanwhile, while the fennel is cooking, remove the sausages from their casings. When the fennel is finished sautéing, remove it to a medium bowl. Add the sausage to the pan and break it up with the back of your mixing spoon. Cook the sausage until it's no longer pink, 5 minutes or so. Then remove the sausage to the fennel bowl. (You can turn off the heat at this point, but don't bother washing this pan just yet--you'll use it again in step 6.)
  4. Meanwhile: set a pot of generously salted water on the range, over high heat. When it starts to boil, add the pasta. Cook until al dente, and then drain the pasta. (But save 1/4 cups of pasta cooking water!)
  5. In a mortar and pestle, crush up the fennel seeds, and mix them with the breadcrumbs. (If you don't have a morar and pestle, you can -- carefully -- use a knife to chop up the fennel seeds instead.) To bring out the flavor even more, toast the fennel seeds and breadcrumbs in a pan over medium heat for about 1 minute.
  6. Melt the butter in the fennel/sausage pan over low heat. Add the drained pasta, and 2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water, and stir together. Chop up the reserved fennel fronds, and add that to the pan, along with the sautéed fennel, the sausage, the breadcrumbs, the pecorino, the red pepper flakes, and the lemon zest. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of pasta water, and stir to bring everything together. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as you see fit.
  7. Spoon the pasta into bowls. Finish with a good crack of freshly grated black pepper.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • FrugalCat
  • Plum Pie
    Plum Pie
  • Amelia
  • Ticketytwo
  • Horto
Cristina is a writer, cook, and day job real estate developer. She studied literature, holds an MFA in Fiction Writing, and completed the Basic Cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She lives in Jersey City with her husband--a Frenchman she met in Spain--and their sweet black cat, Minou. Follow her writings, recipes, publications and photography at theroamingkitchen.com.

17 Reviews

FrugalCat December 2, 2022
Also good with lamb sausage.
Plum P. May 7, 2017
Is this something I could freeze?
Cristina S. May 8, 2017
Hi Plum Pie! I wouldn't; I think this pasta recipe is too fragile to freeze.
denise August 20, 2016
sounds very good.. But some of the steps in the recipe can be done ahead of time and ready to go.. As is smashing the fennel seeds and mixing with breadcrumbs... you need to be organized cooking a simple dish as this or it will not come out right and or seem troublesome to make... I find this with a lot of recipes posted here..
Cristina S. August 20, 2016
Hi Denise, For this recipe, I like to complete those small tasks while waiting for the major components to cook. However, I'm all for preparing ahead! Either way, I hope you'll repost an opinion after actually testing out the recipe.
Amelia April 5, 2016
I used a sweet Italian sausage instead of veal as well but otherwise followed the recipe and it turned out even better than I had imagined! I think this will become a staple in my house from now on.
Cristina S. April 5, 2016
I'm so glad you liked it!
Ticketytwo October 26, 2014
I knew this would be delicious because I'm addicted to fennel. I made it according to the recipe except I substituted pork instead of veal sausage.
I made enough for lunches or dinners this week. Great recipe!
Cristina S. October 26, 2014
Thanks, Ticketytwo! I often substitute pork sausage myself :)
ghainskom June 25, 2014
This is a lot of fennel and I wasn't sure how my kids would react to it. Well, it was a success! And I too, had to refrain from eating the whole pot. Great recipe.
Cristina S. June 26, 2014
I am so glad your family enjoyed it!
Horto March 18, 2014
are the fronds the leafy top
Cristina S. March 18, 2014
Yes, exactly.
EmilyC April 30, 2013
This looks delicious! I love that you incorporated fennel in three ways. It also seems like a doable dish for a weeknight, which I also like! : )
Cristina S. April 30, 2013
Thanks, Emily!
aargersi March 28, 2013
I would eat a big pile of this right now if it was in front of me!
Cristina S. April 28, 2013
Just saw your comment! I have to say, I keep making this dish; I'm addicted!