Pasta with Cauliflower, Fennel, and Sausage


This recipe is usually made using wild fennel that grows abundantly in Sicily.  I’ve also seen it growing wild along the coast of southern California.  Wild fennel has a more intense flavor than the fennel that is available commercially.  Most grocery stores carry fennel bulb which makes an adequate substitute.  It is sweeter and milder in flavor than wild fennel.

Cauliflower, fennel, and sausage make a great combination in this pasta dish.  This pasta dish is typically served with toasted breadcrumbs on top.

(Pasta con Cavolfiore, Finnocchio, e Salsiccia)

Difficulty Rating: Moderate
Makes 6 servings.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 head of cauliflower (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb
1/2 pound bulk Italian sausage
3 tablespoons raisins (optional)
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (optional)
1 pound large shell pasta
Toasted breadcrumbs (optional)

PREPARE THE VEGETABLES:  Trim the fennel bulb by removing the outer layer and the bottom end.  Remove the feathery fronds, chop and set aside.  Remove the stalks and discard.  Chop the fennel bulb.

Trim the cauliflower by cutting off the stalks.  Chop into bite-size pieces.

COOK THE SAUSAGE:  Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Brown the sausage, breaking it into smaller pieces while cooking.  Set aside.

COOK THE VEGETABLES:  Heat olive oil in a large covered skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion and fennel bulb and cook until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.  Add cauliflower, 2 1/2 cups water, raisins and pine nuts (if using).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to break cauliflower into smaller pieces while cooking.

Add the fennel fronds and cook 2 minutes longer.  Stir in the sausage.

COOK THE PASTA:  Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat.  Cook pasta until al dente.  Drain and place in a large bowl.  Stir in the cauliflower mixture.  Serve pasta topped with toasted breadcrumbs if desired.

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