Pasta with Fennel and Sausage is spicy, sweet, creamy, and only six ingredients! Thanks to its minimal ingredient list and easy prep, this pasta is quick to throw together for a date-night in, or even a busy weeknight dinner.
Let’s dive into Friday with a super easy, super quick seven-ingredient recipe. I know Fridays are usually reserved for five-ingredient recipes, and I intended for this to be five ingredients, but hey, seven is close enough, right?
Pasta with Fennel and Sausage is quick to impress and because of that, has quickly climbed up the ladder on my list of favorite pasta dishes. It’s also winning major points in the flavor category, with herb-packed Italian sausage and caramel-y roasted fennel. Thanks to that dynamic duo, this simple pasta dish also happens to reach the perfect pinnacle of subtle spice and sweetness.
White the combo of spicy Italian sausage and sweet fennel serve as the bulk of the pasta dish, white wine and just a hint of cream serve as the sauce. And don’t worry, this is not one of those dishes that’s swimming in cream sauce. We use just enough cream to ever-so-light coat the aldente rigatoni noodles in the most perfect, luxurious way, and then use the starchy cooking water to finish it off.
Let’s get started!
Ingredients in Pasta with Fennel and Sausage
Fennel. When fall comes around, I become slightly infatuated with fennel. When it’s raw, it has this wonderfully bright anise flavor (like in this salad!) and when it’s roasted (as we are today), it becomes super sweet and caramelized and I can’t get enough of it.
Olive oil. We need just a touch of olive oil to coat the fennel. Any kind will do.
Italian sausage. Usually I go for a sweet Italian sausage, but I wanted today’s pasta with fennel and sausage to have a kick to it, so I went with a spicy Italian sausage. In addition to little flecks of fennel seed, which compliment the fresh fennel, it also has plenty of crushed red pepper flakes in it.
Wine. I use a dry white sauvignon blanc, but any good dry white wine will work.
Cream. We only use a scant amount of heavy cream, so try not to swap it our for anything else. If you do decide to swap it out for half and half, make sure to add it at the end, so it doesn’t curdle.
Parmesan cheese. As always, we use our favorite parmigiano reggiano, but any freshly grated aged parmesan works great. And I do want to note, it really should be freshly grated. Unless your grocery store literally grated it in-house, pre-shredded cheese comes with a film on it, making it difficult to effortlessly melt into sauces.
Pasta. You could really use any kind of pasta you want here. I went with rigatoni because it’s a family favorite, but even a long-stranded pasta will work great.
How to slice fennel
Fennel is a strangle looking vegetable, and if you’re not familiar, can be kind of intimidating to work with. Here’s how I go about slicing it for our pasta with fennel and sausage.
- Start by cutting off the fennel stems. I like to cut them off about halfway up the stem as the bottom part of the stem is still edible. Reserve those fennel fronds! The fronds are the feathery part of the fennel. The fronds look very similar to fresh dill, and you want to keep those bad boys.
- Cut the fennel in half lengthwise.
- Peel off any bruised or wilted layers.
- Cut into thin slices. Once you get to the top part of the fennel, simply chop.
- You could also cut the fennel into quarters if you want smaller pieces.
Let’s make Pasta with Fennel and Sausage
Roast the fennel. Roasting the fennel takes the longest, so you want to make sure to do that first. Toss the sliced fennel with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread on a large baking sheet and roast until the fennel is caramelized, about 20 minutes.
Brown the sausage. While the fennel cooks, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Heat a large skillet to a medium-high heat. Add the sausage and use a wooden spoon to break up the sausage as it cooks.
Cook the pasta. When the sausage is cooked through, drop the pasta into the boiling water, along with a good amount of salt. Cook until aldente.
Add the liquid. Add the white wine to the sausage. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the wine is reduced by half and then add the cream. Continue to simmer while the pasta cooks.
Toss. Use a slotted spoon or sieve to transfer the pasta to the sausage, wine, and cream. Reserve that pasta water! Toss the pasta in the sauce along with 1/4 cup of starchy cooking liquid.
Add cheese. Turn the heat down to low and sprinkle a little bit of cheese over the pasta along with the fennel fronds. Tods, repeat again until the cheese is completely added. Continue to toss the pasta with the sauce and cheese until everything has nicely coated the pasta. If needed, add more pasta water to loosen the sauce up. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- If you want to swap out the heavy cream for half and half, add the half and half at the very end. Doing so will help to prevent the half and half from curdling.
- Double the amount of fennel, if you want extra veggies.
- Swap out the parmesan cheese for pecorino.
- Be sure to only cook the rigatoni until it’s aldente.
- If you don’t want to use rigatoni, penne, garganelli, and orecchiette will be good substitutes. Even a long-stranded pasta like fettuccine, pappardelle, or tagliatelle would be great.
Other easy cozy pastas you’ll love
- Our Pastitsio recipe is basically a Greek lasagna, and the ultimate winter dish. Perfect for a weekend project!
- One Pot Creamy Tomato Pasta with Meatballs is everything you want in a cozy winter pasta. Creamy tomato sauce. Tender meatballs. Aldente pasta. CHEESE.
- Stuffed pasta are my favorite, and these Stuffed Shells with Gound Beef can’t be beat!
- 1 large fennel bulb
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 1 lb spicy italian sausage
- 3/4 lb rigatoni
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Large skillet
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Trim the fennel. Cut the stem off. Reserve the feathery fennel fronds and chop finely. Cut the fennel in half lengthwise. Peel off any bruised or wilted layers. Cut into thin slices.
- Toss the sliced fennel with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Spread on a large baking sheet and roast until the fennel is caramelized, about 20 minutes.
- While the fennel cooks, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Heat a large skillet to a medium-high heat. Add the sausage and use a wooden spoon to break up the sausage as it cooks.
- When the sausage is cooked through, drop the pasta into the boiling water, along with a good amount of salt. Cook until aldente.
- Add the white wine to the sausage. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up all the bits at the bottom of the pan. Simmer until the wine is reduced by half and then add the cream and another 1/2 teaspoon. Continue to simmer while the pasta cooks.
- When the pasta is aldente, use a slotted spoon or sieve to transfer the pasta to the sausage, wine, and cream. Reserve pasta water. Toss the pasta in the sauce along with 1/4 cup of starchy cooking liquid and remaining salt.
- Turn the heat down to low and sprinkle a little bit of the cheese over the pasta along with half of the fennel fronds, toss, repeat again until the cheese is completely added. Continue to toss the pasta with the sauce and cheese until everything has nicely coated the pasta. If needed, add more pasta water to loosen the sauce up. Season to taste with salt and pepper.