We don't eat pasta all that often because, you know, the whole carb thing. I'm not completely nutso about cutting out carbs but, knowing that I don't work out as much as I would like and, acknowledging my sweet tooth, I feel like I should cut back somewhere. Pasta drew the short stick. What that means is I really make an effort to make pasta dishes extra special when we do have them.
This pasta dish was a celebration of anticipation. M and I are going to Venice, Italy this year for a romantic vacation. We cannot wait. Aside from the extra special treat of getting an entire week of time with my husband--no work, no cell phone--I just cannot wait to see the beauty of Venice. I went once as a high school student and had an amazing time, but I know I didn't appreciate it like I will this time. I cannot wait to see the canals again, take in the architecture, immerse myself in the architecture and history of centuries old churches, and stare at priceless works of classical and modern art. And I'm not gonna lie...I'm seriously pumped about taking in the food--espresso, gelato, cheese, seafood, and wine. Oh, I cannot wait for the wine. M and I plan to spend an entire afternoon (or two) sitting at whatever cafe we decide on, ordering wine and cheese, and sitting there until the bottle is empty. That is the kind of luxury a teenager in Venice doesn't comprehend.
Pasta with Sausage, Onion, and Fennel
from Lidia Bastianich, Lidia's Family Table
**Note: You need a very large skillet for this recipe. I used my largest one and still wished I had one even larger. Next time, I may try heating my roasting pan between two burners so I have more room to properly caramelize the ingredients.
1 TBSP plus 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1 lb. Ziti or penne pasta
1 large fennel bulb, cored and sliced into 1/4-in. half moons, fronds chopped and reserved
1/3 cup olive oil
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage (without fennel seeds) casing removed
2 med onions cut in half moon slices
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 cup tomato paste
reserved pasta water from cooking pot
1 c. freshly-grated Pecorino Romamo cheese
Directions: (rewritten to be more concise)
1. Add 1 TBSP Kosher salt to a large pot of water. Bring to a boil and cook pasta until al dente, reserve 3 c. cooking liquid, then drain.
2. While water is heating and pasta is cooking, pour olive oil into large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage, breaking up with wooden spoon until brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Push sausage aside and add onion slices, saute until sizzling and wilting, 2 minutes or so. Stir onions into sausage and move to one side of skillet.
3. Add fennel, saute about 1 minute, then stir in with onion and sausage. Sprinkle in 1/4 tsp. salt and red pepper flakes. Clear a good-sized hot spot int he center of the pan.
4. Add the tomato paste in center and cook for a good minute until sizzling and caramelizing, then stir into everything else.