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  • Writer's pictureLydia Gerratt

Penne with sausage, fennel, tomatoes and ricotta

Penne with sausage, fennel, tomatoes and ricotta

I love this recipe; it’s just what you need to get through a cold winter day. The crushed fennel seeds add the right amount of aniseed flavour to balance the richness of pork sausages and the sharpness of the tomatoes is subdued by creamy soft ricotta.

You can use Italian sausages for this recipe and as they are already flavoured with fennel you don’t need to add the fennel seeds. It can be laborious to source good quality Italian sausages so I use the best pork sausages I can find and add crushed fennel seeds to the recipe.

Miraculous ingredient: excellent quality Pork sausages, fennel seeds, red wine, Santini baby plum tomatoes (M&S sells this variety), good quality pasta (Giuseppe Cocco is excellent), Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan)

Penne with sausage, fennel, tomatoes and ricotta


4 Pork sausages (the very best quality you can find, I use Hampshire breed free range from Waitrose)

350g Penne pasta (Giuseppe Cocco pennette rigate is excellent)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small brown onion, finely chopped

¼ teaspoon fennel seeds, finely crushed in a pestle & mortar

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

100ml Red wine (the same quality that you would want to drink!)

200g Santini baby plum tomatoes, halved

15g fresh basil leaves, chopped

100g fresh ricotta

Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano


Place a large pan that can hold a good 3 litres of water onto a high heat. When the water starts to boil add a teaspoon of salt and all the pasta.

Put a medium size frying pan on a low heat to warm up as you get the ingredients ready. Add all the extra virgin olive oil, the chopped onions and fry for 5 minutes. Remove the sausage skins and add the sausage meat into the pan. Use a wooden spatula to break up the sausage meat into very small pieces. Fry for about 5 minutes until the meat has started to brown. Add the crushed fennel seeds, the garlic and fry for another minute.

Pour the wine into the frying pan and cook until it has evaporated. Add the halved baby plum tomatoes. You might have to add a bit of water at this point so the pan is not too dry. Cook the tomatoes until they have broken down to create a sauce.

Turn the heat off and stir in the chopped basil leaves.

When the penne is cooked al dente (soft on the outside but slightly hard in the middle), lift it out of its water with a pasta spoon and put it directly into the pan with the sausage, fennel and tomatoes. Add a 3-4 tablespoons of pasta water to help create a sauce (the starch in the pasta water thickens the sauce).

Use a fork to break up the ricotta in its tub and then drop small pieces all over the pasta. Don’t stir it in – the ricotta works brilliantly as little dollops of coolness eaten with a bite of rich hot sauce and penne. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Preparation time 5 minutes, cooking 25 minutes, serves 4

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