homemade orecchiette pasta with fennel, sausage and tomatoes

Posted on July 21, 2011


I’m a huge fan of Sunday dinner. It’s so easy – usually I can take hours to prepare something, as apposed to a regular day of the week where I want to be in and out of the kitchen in a reasonable amount of time (read: as quickly as effing possible).

My CSA share last week included a large piece of fennel, and since I’m not a fan of most things that taste like anise, I was petrified that it would be one of the things that I should’ve dropped in the “swap box” and headed on my way. My friend suggested that I grill it, or saute it, that it definitely doesn’t taste anything like it does raw once it’s cooked.

I found a recipe that sounded pretty good: orecchiette with sausage and fennel. I decided to start dinner around 2 or 3 pm and eat around 5 or 6 (aka whenever people arrived) so that I could make the pasta from scratch as well as the sauce. I got some basil with my CSA share as well so I decided I’d have to do something with that too. I usually want an excuse to eat buffalo mozzerella as well – I usually find it easy to find one.

Orecchiette is a Puglian type of pasta, made without eggs,  it’s also one that you can make without doing 50:50 semolina flour, which is lucky, cause all I had was all-purpose flour. It’s called “little ears” in Italian, but I wouldn’t go telling all of your dinner guests this… they might get igged out. One of mine did… My bad!

a pile of flour to start

I probably should have looked at a BUNCH of recipes before I really embarked on this mission, because I got a recipe that was entirely in italian, and even google translate didn’t make ANY more sense out of it than I could with my 9th grade ability, and all the swearing Nonna and my mum used to do in Italian… I’m just sayin’ my flour to water ratio could’ve made a bit more sense, also the water could’ve been a bit more tepid…

I looked at a little old lady on Youtube making these little pastas, the was pumping them out like it was nothing. It took me a long longer than it took her to do it, but after I’d made about half they started to look a lot more like the one it sat next to… These little pastas are supposed to air dry for a little while before you cook them, so make sure you have a decent amount of counter space, nicely cleaned and lightly floured so they don’t stick to each other and or the counter.

from a snake to an ear

I don’t know why I didn’t use the KitchenAid mixer on the opposite counter. I was trying to be old school. Eff that ish. I’mma do it in the stand mixer next time. That mixing stuff on a counter shit is for the birds, ones that don’t mind cleaning a TON of flour off many surfaces when done, kind of birds.

Mix dough. Roll into a 1/2″ wide rope. Cut 1/2″ – 3/4″ piece off rope.

Now here’s where things get tricky, and nobody seems to agree…

I saw this old lady push the knife (on the flat) across the piece, so that it flattens the pasta, then stick on thumb and roll over itself. So that’s what I did. Other people just cut little pieces and squish them with their thumbs. That seems way easier, but what that lil old Italian lady on Youtube was doing looked tricky and wicked gangsta, so I had to get in on it.

then, let 'em dry out while you prep the rest of your meal

You will need the following:

3-4 tbs evoo
3/4 – 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, without the casings
1 large (or 2 small?) fennel bulb chopped (fine)
3/4 -1 c white wine (dry, if possible)
2 c tomatoes: seeded diced (CSA!)
1 stem of basil – chopped slightly larger than tomatoes
1/4-ish tsp crushed red pepper flakes (I like spice, I used more)
fresh ground black pepper
dried orecchiette
1/2 c grated Romano cheese

medium heat, pan: cook sausage in half of the oil, drain, set sausage aside (on paper towel or brown paper bag) clean out grease from pan, put rest of evoo and fennel and a pinch of salt (about 1 tsp?) to cook until the fennel browns a bit, add wine. cook until almost evaporated, add sausage, toms, half basil, and crushed red pepper, turn down low, stir constantly until toms break down – takes about ten minutes.

wine + fennel

While you wait for this last bit, you can take this time to cook your pasta. lightly salt the water if you made the pasta yourself – I’m not sure about store bought stuff. I made mine al dente, which wasn’t bad, I was afraid of them sticking to each other and making a gooey mess. I will cook them longer than 8 mins next time. Take pasta, drain, (save a bit of water) and mix with meat/sauce, toss with cheese and rest of basil, add a touch of water if it seems to be too dry.

Orecchiette with fennel, sausage and tomatoes

Pretty damn good, in my opinion. Food was literally on the table at 6:20… But I was waiting for quite some time for people to show up… I also will NOT be cooking for this long until the temperature drops significantly. It is HOTASBALLS in our kitchen.

Ps. I used sweet italian sausage, but I’m pretty sure it would just have a bit more of a spicy kick if you used “hot”…


Posted in: pasta, sauce/dip