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This dish was one of the first meals I ever successfully cooked by myself, when I was around 11 or 12 years old. I had just started experimenting with recipes that I saw on Food Network and there were more misses than hits, if I remember correctly. But this pasta was definitely a hit – my parents raved about it for months. I’ve been making it ever since, and it’s a really simple concept once you master the béchamel sauce. Sausage and fennel go beautifully together, and the fennel – which has a licorice-y flavor when it’s raw – really mellows out when you allow it to caramelize.

Rigatoni with Sausage & Fennel

Serves 4

For the béchamel:

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

2 cups milk (whole or 2%)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp nutmeg

¼ cup parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

For the pasta:

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan)

1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

2 small or 1 large bulb of fennel, thinly sliced

1 box Rigatoni

IMG_1684

IMG_16921. Melt butter over medium heat

image2. Add flour and whisk to combine

image_13. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the mixture turns a light, golden brown

4. Add milk (room temperature is best) and whisk to combine

image_25. Add salt and nutmeg, then continue to whisk for about 8-10 minutes until the sauce thickens (keep this over medium heat and you should start to see small bubbles form around the sides of the pot – do not let it boil)

image_36. Add the parmesan cheese and whisk to combine, then remove from heat until you’re ready to add it to the pasta

image_47. In a large skillet with high sides, heat the olive oil over medium high heat

8. Add the sausage and cook until browned, crumbling with a wooden spoon or spatula as it cooks (5-8 minutes)

image_59. Remove the cooked sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside in a small plate, leaving the drippings in the pan

10. Add sliced fennel to the sausage drippings and cook over medium to medium high heat until soft and slightly caramelized; add a few tablespoons of olive oil if needed (8-10 minutes)

IMG_1689

image_6image_711. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted water according to the package directions; drain and set aside

12. Add the sausage back to the skillet and add the béchamel sauce; stir to combine

image_813. Add the pasta and a few tablespoons of reserved cooking water, and toss to combine

14. Serve with additional parmesan cheese, if desired.

image_2 (2)Enjoy!

Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel
 
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • For the béchamel:
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk (whole or 2%)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • For the pasta:
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan)
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 small or 1 large bulb of fennel, thinly sliced
  • 1 box Rigatoni
Instructions
  1. Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat
  2. Add flour and whisk to combine
  3. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the mixture turns a light, golden brown
  4. Add milk (room temperature is best) and whisk to incorporate the roux (butter/flour mixture)
  5. Add salt and nutmeg, then continue to whisk for about 8-10 minutes until the sauce thickens (keep this over medium heat and you should start to see small bubbles form around the sides of the pot – do not let it boil)
  6. Add the parmesan cheese and whisk to combine, then remove from heat until you’re ready to add it to the pasta
  7. In a large skillet with high sides, heat the olive oil over medium high heat
  8. Add sausage and cook until browned, crumbling with a wooden spoon or spatula as it cooks (5-8 minutes)
  9. Remove the cooked sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside in a small plate, leaving the drippings in the pan
  10. Add sliced fennel to sausage drippings and cook over medium to medium high heat until soft and slightly caramelized; add a few tablespoons of olive oil if needed (8-10 minutes)
  11. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted water according to the package directions; drain and set aside
  12. Add the sausage back to the skillet and add the béchamel sauce; stir to combine
  13. Add the pasta and a few tablespoons of the cooking water, and toss to combine
  14. Serve with additional parmesan cheese, if desired.
  15. Enjoy!

 

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