Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Gluten Free Fennel And Sausage Pasta

When we were kids, our mum would always cook with fennel during winter. Whether it was in a pasta dish or hidden in amongst a salad, my sisters and I were not fans of the strong liquorice/aniseed like taste.

Being a very common Mediterranean dish, fennel is one of Italy's most popular vegetable. The seeds are commonly used in Italian sausages, which my sisters and I would pick out each time we ate them! But as my taste buds matured, I didn’t mind the flavour.

Now that I know the health benefits of fennel, I understand why our mum fed this to us growing up. Fennel is packed with nutrients. It's a good source of fibre, vitamin C, folate, niacin and potassium. One cup contains almost 20 percent of your recommended daily value of vitamin C – which is why you should stock your fridges with fennel this winter!

The entire fennel vegetable can be eaten, including the bulb, stalk and leaves. Fennel seeds don’t actually come from the bulb but instead from the wild fennel variety. The vegetable can be eaten raw, braised, sautéed, roasted, or grilled. When choosing fresh fennel, look for firm, greenish-white fennel bulbs with no soft or brown spots. The leaves should be bright green with no signs of wilting.

One of my favourite ways to eat fennel is finely sliced, mixed with orange segments, and combined with a lemon vinaigrette, or mixed through creamy, soft polenta. But if you are after a more hearty winter meal, try our ‘Fennel and Sausage Pasta’ recipe below. Buon appetito!


400g gluten free pasta (we used Rigatoni)
1 tablespoons olive oil
4 Italian pork sausages (hot or mild depending on taste)
1/2 medium brown onion, finely diced
2 medium fennels, thinly sliced (whole including the leaves)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons pecorino* cheese, grated
Salt to taste

1. Split open the sausages, discard the casings and roughly chop the meat.
2. Cook the pasta in a saucepan of salted boiling water, following packet directions, until tender. Drain pasta, keeping approximately 1 cup of the water (this may not all be used). Set both aside until required.

3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frypan over medium-low heat and fry the sausages until meat is browned. Add the onion and fennel and cook until the onion starts to soften. Season with salt (remember the sausages may already be salty, so be careful and don’t over salt). Stir through the tomato paste.

4. At this stage the mixture will be quite dry. Add the reserved pasta water, a little at a time to the frypan and simmer, allowing the mixture to cook further until the sauce is thick.

5. Add the drained pasta to the frypan, along with the pecorino cheese, and toss until the sauce coats the pasta. Turn off heat and serve hot. Serves 4

*Pecorino is a strong flavoured, salty sheep’s milk cheese. This is often found grated and can be used as a substitute to Parmesan cheese. Pecorino is available at good Italian delicatessens.

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