In the house where I grew up, pasta meant spaghetti, and spaghetti always came with meatballs. In my own house, pasta is an occasional treat (oh, those carbs), one to be enjoyed with or without sauce, with or without meat, and almost always with cheese. These days, every market in my area carries a good variety of lean, precooked chicken sausage, and I always have sweet Italian flavored with peppers and fennel in my freezer. Everything in this dish, except the fresh fennel bulb and whole wheat pasta (which my husband Ted and I eschew in favor of Dreamfields most of the time), comes straight from the pantry. When I make it in summer, a bit of basil and some bronze fennel fronds from the garden kick the dish up a notch or two.
Whole wheat penne pasta with sausage, fennel, tomato and olives
1/2 lb whole wheat penne or other whole wheat pasta
2 tsp olive oil
1 fennel bulb (preferably with the fronds attached), trimmed and sliced
1 medium onion, trimmed and sliced
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 links (approx. 9 oz) sweet Italian chicken sausage, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
Large pinch of red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 cup whole canned tomatoes with their juice
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup black olives
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper, or more to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for topping
Bring a large pot of water to boil, and cook the pasta for one minute less than the package directions specify. Drain, and reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
While the pasta is cooking, start the sauce: In a large nonstick frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the fennel and onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until starting to brown. Stir in the garlic slices and sausage, and red pepper flakes to taste. Sauté until the sausage begins to brown. Pour in the tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon, along with the wine and olives.
Continue cooking over low-medium heat, stirring every now and then, for 5 minutes or until the tomatoes have broken down a bit into the sauce.
Pour the drained pasta into the pan, along with the reserved pasta cooking water, and reduce heat to low. Season with black pepper. Toss the pasta with the sauce and cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta has finished cooking and the ingredients are incorporated. Then, mix in the cheese, and stir to combine.
Serve hot, seasoned with more black pepper and topped with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Linguine with sausage, peppers, leeks and tomato
Chickpeas with sausage and peppers
Farfalle with spinach and sausage
Spaghetti with basil pesto, tomato and olives
Turkey meatballs with pasta
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Whole wheat spaghetti with garlic, chard, and pecorino-romano cheese, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Whole wheat pasta with asparagus and turkey sausage, from Cheap Healthy Good
Healthy whole wheat spaghetti with meat sauce, from This Mama Cooks!
Whole wheat pasta with salmon in creamy pumpkin sauce, from Jersey Bites
Zucchini and almond pasta salad, from Smitten Kitchen
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