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Rigatoni with Fennel and Veal Sausage

From The Chef

I received my bottles of Uproot just as I was completing the latest fennel contest, and this turned out to be a happy coincidence! The Sauvignon Blanc tasted very minerally to me, and that foiled nicely against the softened anise flavors of the fennel, the richness of the veal sausage, and the slight tang of pecorino. It even worked with the spice of the red pepper flakes. I don’t normally drink wine at home in the middle of the week, but let’s just say that I had a great dinner last night!

Serves 4


  • 1 fennel bulb (with fronds)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 veal sausages
  • 1.5 cups rigatoni
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 3 tablespoons plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup finely grated pecorino
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, depending on your preference
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Cut the fronds away from the fennel bulb, reserving both. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer layer of the fennel bulb, and then rinse the fronds. Cut the bulb in half lengthwise and slice both halves as thinly as possible (I use a mandoline).
  2. Warm the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the fennel bulb slices, and sauté until wilted and transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the white wine, and cook just long enough for the wine to dissolve. Season with a touch of salt.
  3. Meanwhile, while the fennel is cooking, remove the sausages from their casings. When the fennel is finished sautéing, move it to a bowl. Add the sausage to the pan and break it up with the back of your mixing spoon. Cook the sausage until it’s no longer pink, 5 minutes or so. Then move the sausage to the fennel bowl.
  4. Meanwhile, boil a pot of generously salted water over high heat. Add the pasta, cook until al dente, and then drain the pasta. (But save 1/4 cup of pasta cooking water!)
  5. In a mortar and pestle, crush up the fennel seeds, and mix them with the breadcrumbs. (If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can use a knife to carefully chop up the seeds instead.) Toast the fennel seeds and breadcrumbs in a pan over medium heat for about 1 minute.
  6. Melt the butter in the fennel/sausage pan over low heat. Add the drained pasta and 2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water and stir. Chop the reserved fennel fronds and add to the pan, along with the sautéed fennel, the sausage, the breadcrumbs, the pecorino, the red pepper flakes, and the lemon zest. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of pasta water, and stir to bring everything together. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as you see fit.
  7. Spoon the pasta into bowls. Finish with a good crack of freshly grated black pepper.
  8. Pour yourself a glass of Uproot and Enjoy!

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