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sausage fennel fusilli

August 19, 2008

This is my absolute favourite pasta.  My daughter requested it for her birthday dinner last night.  She has an excellent palate, that girl. 

After we got back from Italy, we made an Italian Feast for our friends.  The pasta course was this dish, and it got rave reviews.  I love it because:

a.  Mike makes the sauce.  I just prep.
b.  There is the exact right amount of sauce.  Note the pasta is not swimming in sauce.  The sauce merely compliments the pasta.
c.  I heart fennel.  There’s just no way around it.  The combo of fennel and chili flakes is a winner.
d.  The tartness of the lemon zest as a finishing touch, combined with the Parmesean cheese and the secret ingredient (pasta water) makes it all smooth and creamy.

We sadly ate up every last piece last night.  There are never leftovers of this dish.   Note:  do not buy cheap mass-produced Italian sausage from Safeways for this, or it does not work.  A trip to your local Italian shop/butcher is in order.

Here is the recipe, directly from my boyfriend Jamie Oliver.  I changed the name because Ella and I are hardly ‘proper blokes’.

Proper bloke’s sausage fusilli

2 heaped teaspoons fennel seeds
2 dried red chillies, crumbled
Olive oil
1lb 6oz good-quality coarse Italian or other high-quality sausages
1 tablespoon dried oregano
A wineglass of white wine
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1lb 2oz good-quality fusilli or penne
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A couple of knobs of butter
A handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
A small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped

Bash up the fennel seeds and chillies in a pestle and mortar or Flavor Shaker until coarsely crushed, then put to one side. Heat a splash of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan. Squeeze the meat out of the sausage skins and put into the pan, really breaking it up using the back of a spoon. Fry for a few minutes until the meat starts to color and the fat has rendered slightly, then crush it once more so it resembles coarse mince. Add the bashed-up fennel seeds and chillies and cook on a medium heat for around 10 minutes until the meat becomes crisp, golden brown and slightly caramelized.

Stir in your oregano, then pour in the white wine and allow it to reduce by half. Add the lemon zest and juice. Turn the heat down to low while you cook your pasta in a large pan of salted boiling water according to the package instructions. When the pasta has cooked al dente, drain it in a colander, reserving some of the cooking water, and toss it in the pan with your sausagemeat. Coat the pasta in all the lovely flavors then add the butter, parmesan, chopped parsley and a few spoonfuls of the reserved cooking water. This will give you a lovely loose, shiny sauce. Taste and check for seasoning, then serve immediately with a little extra grated Parmesan sprinkled over the top.

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