Ok, so obviously I am missing a few of the ingredients in the title but I know what I am doing! I have made this recipe a few times before and am OK with omitting the fennel. Although, I much prefer this recipe with Orecchiette, whole-wheat spirals were all I had. I also added more wine (woops!) and cornstarch to thicken the sauce a bit.
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 Lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (I used bulk sausage and didn’t have to deal with annoying casings)
1 large fennel bulb (about 1 1/14 Lb. quartered, cored, and finely chopped) (replaced with 1/2 cup diced red onion)
3/4 cup dry white wine (1 cup)
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
2 cups fresh (or canned) seeded diced tomatoes, drained if using canned (fresh grape tomatoes cut in half)
12 basil leaves, torn into small pieces
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (1/2 tsp.)
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 lb. dried oreccheitte (wheat
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano (freshly grated 3 cheese Italian blend from cheese section)
1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.
2. Heat 1 Tbs. of the oil in a 10-inch straight-sided saute pan over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. (I omitted the oil to cook the sausage; there is already enough grease). Add the sausage and cook, break it up with a spoon, until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes (probably more like 10 who wants raw pork sausage?). Transfer the sausage to a paper-towel-lined plate and pour off and discard any fat left in the pan.
3. Set the pan over medium heat and add the remaining 1 1/2 Tbs. oil, the fennel (onion), and 1 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring, until the fennel (onion) softens and browns lightly, about 6 minutes (2-3 minutes for the onion). Raise the heat to high, add the wine (and cornstarch), and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits, until almost evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes (nothing is evaporating in my version; a small amount of sauce will thicken).
3. Add the sausage, tomatoes, half of the basil, the red pepper flakes, and 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper. Lower the heat to medium, and cook stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, 6 to 10 minutes (do not over cook or tomatoes will be gross).
4. Meanwhile, cook the orecchiette (spirals) in the boiling water, about 11 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain well. Return the pasta to the pot, add the sauce, and cook over medium-high heat so the sauce and the pasta meld. If the pasta seems dry, add enough cooking-water to moisten it to your liking. I normally add 1/4 cup. Stir in half of the pecorino, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve sprinkled with the remaining pecorino and basil.