Fennel & Sausage Rigatoni

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Murphy’s Laws of Parenting: 

  1. If you could sleep in (because it is the weekend or school has been cancelled due to impending snowmageddon), the kids will wake up at the crack of dawn.
  2. Conversely, if you need them to wake up (time for school! let’s go!), they will choose that day to laze about leaving you no choice but to run around like a crazy person.
  3. Similarly, the youngest child will wake up the earliest on all days except Christmas, when you will be forced to wake them because the older ones can’t wait for toys any longer.
  4. If you have just returned from the grocery store and think you are “set” for the week, you will receive a note in a backpack requesting some (must be store-bought) snack that your child needs to bring to share with all of their classmates.
  5. If you don’t have time to do a load of laundry, that will be the day that the toddler inexplicably goes through four outfits, forcing you to do laundry late at night so that he can be clothed the next day.
  6. Any food that you are eating (and don’t want to share) will be so coveted by your child(ren) that you will end up with only a small bite for yourself.
  7. However, if you make that exact same food for everyone to eat, all of a sudden it will have lost its appeal and you will have leftovers galore.
  8. The more mittens you buy (so you have extras in case they go missing), the more mittens will be lost. (Second law of thermodynamics, you stink.)
  9. Your children will always fall in love with the most annoying toy/TV show/electronic game, so that its horrible noises will be embedded in your brain for eternity.
  10. Finally, just when you are at your wit’s end your child(ren) will do something so endearingly sweet that you will forget numbers 1-9.

The recipe for this post definitely falls in the Murphy’s Law of kid-friendly meals. I have made this many times and sometimes it is gobbled with abandon, and other times it gets the “meh” treatment. Thankfully, I think it is delicious and the leftovers make a nice lunch. (And if you only re-heat enough for yourself, you know that the kids will all want a bite.)

Fennel & Sausage Rigatoni (adapted from Lidia’s Favorite Recipes)

  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage (casings removed, or just use patties)
  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or more if you like it spicier)
  • 2 medium onions
  • salt
  • 6 ounces (1 small can) tomato paste
  • 3/4 pound rigatoni
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • black pepper
  1. Heat a very large pot of salted water to a boil (you need more water than you normally would for just pasta because you use it in the sauce). Meanwhile, thinly slice the fennel bulb. Chop the fennel fronds and set aside. Cut the onions into half-moon slices.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring and breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it is starting to brown.
  3. Push the sausage aside and add the onion slices to the cleared part of the Dutch oven. Season with salt. Saute for 2 minutes, then stir into the sausage.
  4. Push the onion/sausage mixture aside and add the fennel and crushed red pepper to the cleared part of the Dutch oven. Let it wilt for about 1 minute, then stir into the onion/sausage mixture.
  5. Cook the rigatoni in the salted water until it is al dente (according to the package instructions).
  6. Push the fennel/onion/sausage mixture aside and add the tomato paste to the cleared part of the Dutch oven. Let it sizzle & caramelize for about 1 minute, then stir it into the fennel/onion/sausage mixture. Add 3 cups of the pasta water to the Dutch oven, stir well, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer while the rigatoni finishes cooking. (If the sauce gets too thick, add more pasta water.)
  7. Scoop the cooked rigatoni out of the water and add to fennel/sausage sauce. Stir to coat the pasta with the sauce, adding pasta water if it seems too thick. Turn off the heat. Stir in the fennel fronds and grated cheese. Season with salt & black pepper and serve.

Serves: 6

Time: 30 minutes

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