Penne with Sausage and Fennel Seed

14 10 2011

Fennel seed can add a zesty bite of anise to dishes (including Tuscan salami and boxed pizza!)

I first discovered fennel seed in a somewhat unusual way. When I was a kid in the late 70’s and early 80’s, my mom would sometimes make boxed Kraft pizza (we lived in a rural community so delivery wasn’t an option). Each kit contained a can of sauce, dough mix and a seasoning packet of dried herbs to sprinkle over the pizza. All you had to do was add the toppings of your choice which usually included ground beef, mushroom slices (canned, of course) and cheese. I always loved the seasoning packet – it added a zippy burst of Italian flavour to our less than authentic pizzas. Years later I finally realized what it was that gave our ‘pizzas’ the flavour I loved so much: fennel seed.

Fennel seeds are the dried fruit of the sweet fennel plant. They have an anise (black licorice) flavour and pair well with pork. In Italy’s Tuscan region, fennel salami (finocchiona) is very popular and fennel seeds are often crushed to rub onto meat before roasting or grilling. They impart a delicious burst of anise flavour when chewed. Fennel seeds can be found at most well stocked grocery stores or kitchen shops. Look for whole seeds as opposed to ground ones.

A tip: You can use either cream or evaporated milk in this recipe. While cream will give the sauce a silky richness, it’s very high in fat and calories – low-fat canned evaporated milk is a decent substitute.

Penne with Sausage and Fennel Seed

Makes 6 servings

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 5 mild or sweet Italian sausages
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seed
  • A 14 oz. (398 ml) can of tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup evaporated milk or cream
  • Pinch of sugar, to taste (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 500 g (1 lb.) dried penne or rigatoni
  • Parmesan cheese, to garnish (optional)
  1. In a large deep skillet or enameled cast iron pot, heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Add onion and celery and sauté until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
  2. Slice the skins of the sausages lengthwise down the middle and remove the meat from their casings. Discard the casings. Add the sausage meat to the pot and use a spatula or spoon to break up the meat. Add garlic and fennel seeds.
  3. Cook sausage mixture on medium-high until just browned, about 7 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure it doesn’t burn.
  4. Add tomatoes and break up with a spoon. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until some of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in tomato paste until thoroughly combined.
  5. Add evaporated milk or cream and stir into sauce. Let sauce simmer for 5 more minutes. Season to taste with a pinch of sugar (optional – use if the tomatoes are very acidic), salt and pepper. Keep warm on low heat while the penne cooks.
  6. In a separate large pot with a lid, heat water to cook the penne. Bring to a boil and cook penne until al dente, according to package instructions, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  7. Drain penne and toss with sauce until thoroughly coated. Garnish with parmesan cheese if desired.

Penne with Sausage and Fennel Seed makes a simple and delicious autumn dinner

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

This recipe first appeared on Suite 101.com.
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Pasta with Bacon, Peas and Garlic Scapes

6 07 2011

Garlic scapes at the Bala Farmers' Market

It’s finally July – the month when the summer markets really start to hit their stride. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a bit of time traveling over the past few weeks, including spending a wonderful few days in the beautiful Muskoka region of Ontario. One of my favourite things about driving through rural areas in the summertime is stopping at roadside markets and fruit stands. As luck would have it, the community of Bala was having a farmers’ market the day we were there so of course, I had to check it out.

In addition to strawberries, asparagus, peas, blueberries and rhubarb, I was excited to see garlic scapes at the market. Garlic scapes are the tops of the garlic plant and can sometimes be found at farmers’ markets in last spring and early summer (unfortunately, you probably won’t see them at supermarkets). They are long and curly and have a sweet, garlicky flavour. Scapes are very versatile and can be used like garlic in dishes such as stir fries, egg dishes, pastas and salads. They can be cooked or eaten raw and you can use the flowering ends as garnish.

Fresh peas are another early summer favourite of mine. They add a sweet burst of flavour to dishes or can be eaten simply cooked with a dash of salt and a bit of butter. The key to fresh peas is to cook them quickly and simply (they are also delicious raw) so don’t overcook them! When shelling peas, discard any peas that have grown large and have split – I find they can have a slightly off, ‘metallic’ flavour. Unfortunately, peas aren’t terribly efficient: I shelled 45 pods to yield just under a cup and I found a few pods with only one pea in them! However, their delicate flavour it worth the effort if you’re looking for a taste of summer. You can always use frozen baby peas to save time. Avoid canned peas – they don’t have the right sweetness or texture!

Cosmo's Smoked Meats - they make a fantastic dry smoked back bacon

A Few Helpful Tips:

  • This recipe is all about the quality of ingredients so use the best you can find. The sauce lightly coats the noodles – it’s not drowning in sauce. You can reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water before draining to add to the pasta if it looks a little dry. The entire dish comes together very quickly once you have your ingredients prepped.
  • I used a dry smoked back bacon from Cosmo’s Smoked Meats and it had a nice dry texture and smoky flavour. You can use any kind of double smoked slab bacon or smoked ham. Of course, regular strip bacon will work in a pinch but won’t have quite the same flavour or texture.
  • I also used fresh fettucine from the refrigerated case at the supermarket. For 500 grams/1.1 lbs. of fresh pasta you can substitute about 8 to 10 oz./226 to 284 grams dried pasta of any shape you prefer.

Pasta with Bacon, Peas and Garlic Scapes

Makes about 4 to 5 servings

  • 1 lb. (500 grams) fresh long pasta such as fettucine or linguine (or use 8 to 10 oz./226 to 284 grams dried pasta)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 oz. (142 grams) smoked slab bacon or smoked ham, cut into a 1/2″ dice
  • 3 garlic scapes, each about 23″ long, chopped – reserve the flowering ends as garnish
  • 3/4 cup fresh shelled peas (from about 40 to 45 pods)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 oz. (28 grams) parmesan, grated (will equal about 1/4 cup packed when grated)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Heat a large pot of water to cook the pasta. While the water is heating, prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the bacon or smoked ham and brown until slightly crisp around the edges, about two to three minutes (if you’re cooking raw bacon, it will take a bit longer). Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Put the pasta into the boiling water to cook according to package directions. Drain once cooked.
  4. Add the chopped garlic scapes and peas to the skillet and sauté for one minute. Pour in the chicken broth and cook for another minute. Add the butter and stir until melted and return the bacon to the pan.
  5. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss until the pasta is thoroughly coated. Stir in the grated parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a garlic scape if desired. Suggested accompaniment: Bread with Garlic Scape Butter.

Pasta with Bacon, Peas and Garlic Scapes

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Get updates from The Seasonal Gourmet on Facebook and Twitter.  Join the conversation today!

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.





Penne with Sausage and Fennel Seed

1 11 2010

Penne with sausage and fennel seed

I can’t believe it’s already November!  It seems like just yesterday I was excited about the first chives of spring peeking out of my herb pot.  Now most of the farmers’ markets are done for the year and there is the possibility of snow in many areas (in fact, it snowed in Eastern Canada yesterday!).  However, there is still a lot of seasonal cooking we can do and as we get cozy, our menus become more hearty and warming.

This easy pasta dish is rich and filling but you can use evaporated milk in place of cream to lighten the sauce a bit.  Lean sausages also work but make sure not to overcook them or they will become dry.  You can also use whole wheat penne instead of white if you’d prefer.  It’s perfect after a vigorous autumn hike or day of raking leaves.

Penne with Sausage and Fennel Seed

Makes 6 servings

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 5 mild or sweet Italian sausages
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • A 14 oz. (398 ml) can of tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup evaporated milk or cream
  • Pinch of sugar, to taste (optional – if tomatoes are very acidic)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 500 g (1 lb.) dried penne or rigatoni
  • Parmesan cheese, to garnish (optional)
  1. In a large deep skillet or enameled cast iron pot, heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Add onion and celery and sauté until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
  2. Slice the skins of the sausages lengthwise down the middle and remove the meat from their casings. Discard the casings. Add the sausage meat to the pot and use a spatula or spoon to break up the meat. Add garlic, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes.
  3. Cook sausage mixture on medium-high until just browned, about 7 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure it doesn’t burn.
  4. Add tomatoes and break up with a spoon. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until some of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in tomato paste until thoroughly combined.
  5. Add evaporated milk or cream and stir into sauce. Let sauce simmer for 5 more minutes. Season to taste with a pinch of sugar (optional – use if the tomatoes are very acidic), salt and pepper. Keep warm on low heat while the penne cooks.
  6. In a separate large pot with a lid, heat water to cook the penne. Bring to a boil and cook penne until al dente, according to package instructions, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  7. Drain penne and toss with sauce until thoroughly coated. Garnish with parmesan cheese if desired.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This article first appeared on Suite 101.com.