Panini Girl posted a recipe for stewed sausage with fennel a couple weeks ago, and I’ve been eyeing it in my inbox ever since. She found the April Bloomfield recipe in the January issue of Food & Wine, in a feature about women chefs. This simple dish is full of flavor and easy to make. It’s ideal for a dinner party but if you make it for a smaller group the leftovers will last for days and only get better. I chose to make it for a group of six that Miriam and I hosted last week. As the recipe suggests, we served it over cheesy polenta, which Miriam had made. It was the perfect starch to soak up the spicy sauce.
I did make a few adjustments to make it more saucy and kick up the spice, but I may have made it too spicy! I couldn’t find the chiles that the recipe calls for so I grabbed a few small orange ones, but I think they were way too hot – especially since I left the seeds in. Oops! Good thing most of the dinner guests like spicy food; there was one self-proclaimed spicy food wimp, but he was able to eat a sweet sausage with very little sauce after his wife taste-tested it for him. So cute.
Stewed Sausage with Fennel (serves 8)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 sweet Italian sausages
- 5 hot Italian sausages
- 2 fennel bulbs—trimmed, each bulb cut into 8 wedges, fronds chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- Kosher salt
- 2 x 28-ounce can San Marzano whole tomatoes, crushed with your hands, juices reserved
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2-3 chiles – quartered with seeds left in if you want it more spicy, otherwise leave them whole
Heat half of the olive oil in a large pot over a medium-high flame. Place the sweet sausages in the pot and sear on all sides for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate, then add the rest of the olive oil to the pot and sear the hot sausages, then transfer to the plate with the other sausages.
Next, add the fennel and sauté over medium heat until golden – about five minutes. Add the onion, garlic, fennel seeds and salt and continue to sauté for a few more minutes. Then add tomatoes, wine and chiles and stir to combine. Fold the sausages into the sauce and cook covered for 15 minutes over a low flame. Then uncover and continue to cook for another 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a serving dish and top with chopped fennel fonds; serve with polenta.
Like I said, the sauce was pretty darn spicy but I still loved it – as long as I didn’t accidentally eat some chile. I has two portions of leftovers, which I ate with 1/2 cup of cooked farro to soak up the sauce. I think that when I made this again I will definitely adjust the spice of the chiles, but still do a mix of spicy and sweet sausages. I also want to try the less saucy version (only one can of tomatoes) at some point. But the best part of the recipe is definitely the fennel. I had no idea how delicious it was when cooked!
Pair this dish with a fruitful red wine with a bit of spice, such as a Washington Cabernet, an Alexander Valley Zinfandel or a Chianti – something that will compliment the acidity of the tomatoes but add some softness to the palate. And if it’s too hot for you, take a shot of milk!