Friday, November 3, 2017

My Famous "Sausage & Fennel Pasta" Recipe

            I always think it's endearing when someone calls me famous, but I disagree... I'm no Gordon Ramsay, Michael Smith, Emeril Lagasse, or Guy Fieri. Now those guys are famous! I guess you could say I'm famous for my great recipes, and maybe the most famous one of all is my recipe for sausage & fennel pasta. What makes it famous though? Has it been eaten by someone famous? Perhaps... but the main reasons are that I have been making this for years; it has been requested many times over by family and friends; and I have received so many compliments on it. So it is my pleasure to share it with you. Of course, being that it is so good, it has been included in my 'best of' cookbook "The Best In Your Kitchen", so if you have that book, you already have this recipe: Page 83 specifically.
            My inspiration to add fennel seed to this sausage pasta dish is because classic Italian sausages traditionally have whole fennel seed in them. However, unless you're shopping at an Italian butcher or deli, chances are the Italian sausages you are buying, don't have fennel seed in them... so I have added them to this recipe, and in abundance I must say. Why, because I love fennel seed and it works great in this recipe.
            The easiest way to remove the sausage meat from the casings, is to give each sausage a squeeze in the middle; twist it at that point (like you were making 2 small sausage links); and then push the sausage meat out the 2 ends of the casing. You can discard the casings afterwards as there is really no use for them.
            You may notice an odd ingredient listed in this recipe: ‘Sambal oelek’. It is a crushed chilli product that comes in liquid/paste form – it is optional in this recipe but I find that it really adds some complexity to the sauce, and with only one half teaspoon the sauce is not spicy. If you want a spicy sauce, then add more sambal oelek or use hot Italian sausage instead of the mild. Sambal Oelek is easily found in any major supermarket down the imported foods aisle, and in almost all specialty food stores. Every Chef knows about the Sambal and we keep it on hand for many applications.
            One other ingredient I want to bring your attention to is the "vegetable stock paste". This is a product of vegetable broth/stock that has been reduced down to paste form (instead of liquid broth/stock). Traditionally one would add one cup of water to one teaspoon of this paste to make one cup of broth/stock. It also comes in beef, chicken, and other varieties. The most common brand is in small glass jars with a brand name of "Better Than Bouillon". I like products like this because it allows me, as the meal maker, to use one cup of other liquids that have more flavour than water, to add to the one teaspoon of paste... because water has no flavour. So, for example in this recipe, I add one cup of full-bodied red wine for my liquid instead.
            Reducing the sauce uncovered in step number 3 is crucial. What you are doing in this step through evaporation, is making the sauce extremely thick, and then when the one cup of whipping cream is added, it will bring it back to regular sauce consistency. What you are basically doing is evaporating a lot of the water content out of the ingredients in the pan, and replacing that flavourless, colourless water with full fat whipping cream. Important: full fat whipping cream of 33% to 35% milk fat must be used: any less fat (like 10% creamo for example) would likely result in it curdling. 
            Let me know how you like this recipe! Happy Cooking!

Dez’s Famous Sausage & Fennel Pasta
Recipe created by Chef Dez
Makes approximately 6 portions

3 tbsp olive oil
500g mild Italian sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, diced very small
4 - 6 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp fennel seed
1 tsp salt
A few grinds of black pepper
1 – 156ml can tomato paste
1 – 796ml can of diced tomatoes
1 cup of full-bodied red wine
1 tsp vegetable stock paste
2 tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp sambal oelek, optional**
400g penne pasta or other favourite pasta shape
1 cup whipping cream
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, for garnish

  1. Add the olive oil, sausage, onion, garlic, fennel seed, salt and pepper to a large heavy bottomed pan.
  2. Turn the heat on to medium-high and cook, while breaking up the sausage, until the sausage is fully cooked and in small pieces, approximately 8 to 12 minutes.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste, diced tomatoes, wine, vegetable paste, sugar, and sambal oelek. Bring to a boil and reduce over medium heat until the sauce becomes very thick, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Cook your pasta in boiling, liberally salted water to desired consistency (approximately 13 to 15 minutes for penne) during this step.
  4. Once the sauce has reduced, stir in the whipping cream and then the cooked and drained pasta. Serve immediately garnished with parsley and grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

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