On the Italian island of Sardinia, we were delighted by a spicy pasta with minced pork and wild fennel. It was loaded with a variety of spices and herbs, including parsley, black pepper, fennel seeds, paprika, red pepper flakes, onions, and salt.
Delicious but with a daunting ingredient list for a midweek pasta. When it came time to adapt the recipe for our book Milk Street Tuesday Nights, which limits recipes to 45 minutes or less, we saw a fantastic shortcut that saved time and ingredients. Italian sausages always contain at least some of these spices, so we just took the sausage meat out of the casing and sautéed it to create a flavorful ragu.
Dry vermouth and lemony lemon peel perfectly balance the fullness of the sausage, which goes well with the pepperiness of baby rocket. Orecchiette, a coin-sized, saucer-shaped pasta, is ideal for catching spicy pieces of sausage, spring onions, and fennel seeds; If you can’t find an orecchiette, scallops and cavatelli will work fine too.
Don’t forget to reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water before draining the pasta. You will need it to build the sauce.
ORECCHIETTE WITH SAUSAGE AND ARUGULA
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1 pound of orecchiette pasta
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 pound of sweet or hot Italian sausage, casing removed
2 bunches of spring onions, sliced, white and green parts reserved separately
4 medium-sized garlic cloves, chopped
¼ cup of dry vermouth or white wine
1 teaspoon of grated lemon peel
5-ounce container of baby rocket, roughly chopped
1½ ounces parmesan cheese, finely grated (¾ cup), plus more for serving
Bring 4 liters of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost al dente. Collect 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain. Put the pasta back in the pot.
While the pasta is cooking, in a 12-inch pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the sausage and cook in small pieces until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper with a slotted spoon, then drain and discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat.
Add the white onion, garlic, and fennel seeds to the fat in the pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the spring onions are tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vermouth and cook, scraping off any browned pieces until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 1 minute. Stir in the reserved cooking water, lemon zest and half of the shallot greens. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until slightly thickened.
Pour the mixture over the pasta, then add the sausage. Cook over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring, until warmed through. Add the rocket and toss to wilt. Stir in parmesan from the heat. Sprinkle with the remaining spring onion greens and serve drizzled with oil; offer extra parmesan cheese on the side.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more recipes, visit Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street at 177milkstreet.com/ap
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