Cavatelli with Fennel Sausage, Brown Butter and Crispy Sage

When winter isn't quite ready to shed its coat and enter spring, hearty, simple, stick-to-the-ribs meals are best. There's barely anything at the farmers market, so we turn to our pantries instead. What I love about this recipe is that you can use your favorite fennel sausage instead of making it from scratch. That brings the cooking time to 20 minutes, tops. I'm of the mind that brown butter improves anything and when mixed with fragrant sage and fennel, it's such a satisfying combination. You can try this recipe with any pasta you like, but I like the texture of the cavatelli best. Enjoy!
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 30 min
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
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Ingredients

Kosher salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

Fennel Sausage (recipe follows) or 1 1/2 pounds of your favorite fresh fennel sausage, casings removed and sausage crumbled into 1-inch pieces

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

15 sage leaves, chopped, plus whole fried leaves for garnish (optional)

1/2 cup dry white wine

10 ounces cavatelli pasta

2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

Fennel Sausage:

1 1/2 pounds ground pork shoulder

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

10 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

2 teaspoons rosemary leaves, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed

Pinch of crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, then the sausage in batches, if necessary, to avoid overcrowding the skillet. Cook until the sausage is fully cooked, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the sausage to a plate and return the skillet to the heat.
  3. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta.
  4. Meanwhile, add the butter and the chopped sage to the skillet and cook, stirring, until the butter is browned and smells nutty. Pour in the wine and cook until the alcohol has cooked off, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon, about 3 minutes. Return the sausage to the skillet, add the pasta and toss to coat. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and fried sage leaves and serve immediately.

Fennel Sausage:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix together with your hands until well combined. Gently roll the mixture into 1 inch balls and set aside on a rimmed baking sheet lined with wax paper. Refrigerate until ready to use, for up to 4 days.

Cook’s Note

The sausage mixture also makes an excellent base for meatballs!

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