OK, I admit it – I have a thing for Italian sausage and pasta. Might have something to do with hubby being a fan as well. You’ve got to love enabling! I’d seen this recipe a few months ago and something told me, despite its fennel-infused state, that this would be a fantastic recipe. My instincts deserve a vacation to Italy because they were right.
Sis and I had the funniest time arranging this shot. The fennel, which we eventually cut in half as seen here, was so big and the only place to put it was in the back behind everything else. But then it just looked like some fuzzy green monster with its ears sticking up in the back. Let’s face it, fennel isn’t a very pretty veggie.
But after you slice it up it’s actually kind of nice! You’ll definitely notice its liquorice-like smell, but before you dismiss it all together for that, keeeeep reading.
Did you know that fennel seed is used in a lot of Itlaian sausage and cooking? Now, has any of that Italian goodness ever tasted like liquorice? You got it, you’re catching on.
Here we’ve started things off by sauteing the crumbled sausage, fennel and mushrooms. Very quickly things are going to start smelling rather awesome.
This is not a saucy pasta. Most of the liquid added in will cook down a lot and coat the rest of the ingredients more than anything, as well as add some really great flavor. This dish overall packs so much flavor. You’ll see!
OK, I admit it – this isn’t a very flattering picture of the sauce. No, we’re not making stroganoff. Well, actually, maybe we are, the Italian version. Anyway, the point is this tastes so much better than it looks.
Oh my, hello little tortellini! Thou art adorable and sure to be lip-smacking tasty.
After cooking up the pasta the rest is a cinch. The pasta and sauce are tossed together. While still piping hot, toss in some spinach and gently stir it in until it’s wilted. Sprinkle in some Parmesan and it’s time to tear into this meal that’s been slowly driving you crazy with delicious smells.
Fennel takes on a wonderful, savory flavor when cooked and it really sets the tone in this dish, a good one that is. There are a couple of garlic cloves that are merely crushed as opposed to minced but their flavor really comes through and melds perfectly with everything else. The only part I could leave off next time is the spinach. While I love the stuff it didn’t add much for me personally.
The flavor this dish packs is sooo wonderful. It’s comforting and filling and everything a great pasta dish should be. Enjoy!
Tortellini with Italian Sausage, Fennel & Mushroom
from Bon Appetit, December 2010
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes Level: Easy Serves: 8
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed, halved through core, thinly sliced lengthwise (about 3 cups), fronds chopped
- 1 pound spicy Italian sausages, casings removed, sausage coarsely crumbled
- 1 8-ounce package sliced fresh crimini (baby bella) mushrooms
- 4 large garlic cloves, pressed
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, coarsely crushed
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup (or more) low-salt chicken broth
- 1 16-ounce package dried tortellini with pesto filling or fresh tortellini with 3-cheese filling
- 1 5-ounce package fresh baby spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese plus additional (for serving)
Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced fennel bulb, sausage, and mushrooms; sauté until sausage is brown and cooked through and fennel is almost tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Add garlic and fennel seeds; stir 1 minute. Stir in cream, then 1 cup broth; boil until liquid is reduced and very slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook tortellini in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain tortellini; return to same pot.
Add sausage mixture to tortellini in pot. Toss over medium heat until blended. Add spinach; toss gently until spinach wilts. Stir in 1/2 cup cheese; add more broth by 1/4 cupfuls to moisten if dry. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with chopped fennel fronds, and serve, passing additional cheese.
Next time I make this I might try penne instead of tortellini. Believe it or not, the filled pasta was almost too rich.
If you just can’t take the idea of fennel, maybe try substituting leeks, though I’ll warn that the fennel really does add a lot of flavor whereas the leeks probably wouldn’t nearly as much. If you use leeks, thin-slice 2-3, white and light green parts only. Make sure they don’t need to be washed to rid the sections of as much dirt as possible, or plunge the sliced pieces in water, swish and remove to a few paper towels and blot.