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
Test Kitchen Notes
Featured in: A Quick & Cozy Sheet-Pan Pasta for Lazy Winter Weeknights. —The Editors
- Cook time 40 minutes
- Serves 4 to 6
sweet and/or spicy Italian sausages (casings still on), cut into bite-size pieces
head cauliflower, separated into florets and cut into bite-size pieces
red onion, thickly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
fusilli (spiral-shaped pasta)
grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to taste
fresh Italian parsley leaves (left whole), for garnish, but also as an ingredient in its own right
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- 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.
- 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.
- Add everything from the sheet pan to the pot with the cooked fusilli, along with the Parmesan and parsley, and toss together.