Winter Weeknight Pasta

February 25, 2019

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: There's nothing like fennel seed to make Italian sausages taste even more of themselves (probably because it's one of the main flavorings). If you've ever bitten into a fennel seed, then you know what I mean. It's fragrant and herbaceous, tasting lightly of licorice and, well, of sausage. Roasting the sausages like this, chopped up into small bite-size pieces, also means they crisp up and curl into themselves as they bake, essentially turning into little meatballs—zero rolling involved.

The sheet-pan method saves the day again because all of the ingredients will sweeten and caramelize in the oven (while you go about your night, e.g. feeding the dog, taking a bath, pouring yourself a glass of wine). More importantly, the fat from the sausages will flavor the entire contents of the pan. This fennel-scented fat will be especially useful when tossed into a pound of cooked fusilli, because it both seasons and enriches the pasta like nothing else.
Eric Kim

Food52 Review: Featured in: A Quick & Cozy Sheet-Pan Pasta for Lazy Winter Weeknights.The Editors

Serves: 4 to 6
Cook time: 40 min


  • 1 pound sweet and/or spicy Italian sausages (casings still on), cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 head cauliflower, separated into florets and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 red onion, thickly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound fusilli (spiral-shaped pasta)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves (left whole), for garnish, but also as an ingredient in its own right
In This Recipe


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Place sausage, cauliflower, red onion, fennel seed, olive oil, salt, and pepper on a half-sheet pan (18x13 inches), toss to combine, and roast for 40 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and season generously with salt. Cook fusilli to desired doneness, drain, and return to the pot.
  4. Add everything from the sheet pan to the pot with the cooked fusilli, along with the Parmesan and parsley, and toss together.

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Reviews (5) Questions (0)

5 Reviews

Chris March 20, 2019
Donald P.’s suggestion of slightly freezing the sausages is a great suggestion. Wish I had thought of that ahead of time. That said, this meal turned out very well (sausage mess aside). Because there are a few cauliflower challenged people in our house, I substituted broccoli for cauliflower and added a chopped red pepper. Both held up quite well and everyone was happy.
ifjuly March 19, 2019
I really like how the timing and logistics of this work out so well--everything's ready roughly at the same time for combining at the end, and because the stuff in the oven is hands off and just does its delicious thing without interference it seems like multitasking but isn't actually complicated. And then the results aren't disappointing taste-wise despite the convenience; it's a satisfying dish with good flavor from the roastiness, the sweetness of the onion, the freshness from the more-than-usual amount of parsley, and yeah, the boosted fennel seed (loved the write up mention of how you can't not associate it with italian sausage, ah yep!). Only thing I might add at all is a tiny consideration, just a shake of red pepper flakes perhaps. Thanks for the recipe!
Donald P. March 9, 2019
This worked well. Assuming you meant uncooked vs precooked sausages. When I fix this again, I might try freezing the sausages for 30 minutes or so, just to keep the meat inside the casings when I'm slicing them.
Rebecca L. March 5, 2019
I made this last night. I used locally made pineapple/brown sugar sausages (sweet). The next time I make it, I'm going to use more cauliflower and red onion (personal preference for more stuff). Love the sheet pan approach.
karenheff March 7, 2019
Whoa. Pineapple/brown sugar sausage sounds AMAZING.
I'm thinking of adapting the recipe by omitting the pasta and adding bell peppers (Tragically I'm low carb these days)