You know you have landed in Sicily when you catch the anise-like fragrance of wild fennel drifting in the summer breeze. Indigenous to Sicily, the herb adorns the island. You will find its feathery green fronds snaking along roadsides dotted with almond trees, agaves and prickly cactus, or hiding in the bushes that cover the island’s Mediterranean shrubland.
Unmistakably fresh, wild fennel is the seasoning of choice for many a traditional dish on the island. But our chef Roberta’s favourite expression of the herb is “salsiccia e finocchietto” - Sicily’s famous sausage and fennel sauce, and the inspiration for this dish. Roberta, a Pugliese native, loves regaling us with tales of her childhood holidays to San Vito Lo Capo, a mountain comune in Northern Sicily, famous for its sausage-making tradition. Here, you will find her mamma’s favourite trattoria, where salsiccia e finocchietto bubbles away in big pots in the backyard, its intoxicating aroma offering a very particular kind of joy.
Inspired by Roberta’s memory, this sausage ragù recipe is prepared in true Sicilian tradition. Stewed slowly, the savoury flavour of the sausage is enhanced by the addition of wild fennel and sea salt, creating a sumptuous sauce far greater than the sum of its parts.
Our creamy Sicilian sausage and fennel sauce
Prep Time: 15 minutes (excluding pasta)
Cooking Time: 50 minutes
Calories per serving: 869kcal (including pasta)
- 600g fresh pasta of your choice (we love the Sicilian favourite, rigatoni)
- 900g pork sausage meat
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 120g fresh fennel with tops, chopped
- 4g fennel seeds, roughly ground
- 4g fresh chilli, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 80ml white wine
- 100ml chicken stock
- 400ml single cream
- 2tbsp olive oil
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- Heat a splash of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the sausage meat, using a fork or wooden spatula to break the meat into small pieces. Allow to fry for around 10 minutes, until the sausage is nicely browned.
- Add the onion, fennel (not including the fennel tops), fennel seeds, chilli and garlic. Fry the mixture for a further 15 minutes or so.
- Add the wine, allowing the mixture to cook until the alcohol evaporates. Add the stock, season with salt and pepper, then cover the pan with a lid and simmer gently for half an hour.
- After this time, stir in the cream and fennel tops.
- Bring a pan of generously salted water to a rolling boil, before adding your chosen pasta. Cook the pasta until al dente.
- Strain the pasta, reserving a cup or so of cooking water. Add the pasta to the pan containing the sauce. Toss to combine, adding a splash of starchy cooking water as necessary to loosen the sauce.
- Serve immediately, finishing the dish with more freshly cracked black pepper and Italian hard cheese.
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