Stewed Sausages with Fennel and Tomato

fensausageplatedsm

Owing to our work schedules, Saturdays are typically filled with running errands and housekeeping. As a result on these days, I often look for dishes that are relatively easy to prepare and that can cook on their own while we catch our breath and linger over an aperitivo.

I came across this recipe on the Food and Wine website and thought it would be perfect for a wintry Saturday evening. Including prep, it only requires about an hour and a half and as the sausages cook, the aromas tantalize the appetite.

I’ve modified the original recipe slightly, reducing the number of sausages to 6 from 12 and the number of fennel bulbs from 3 to 2. The recipe recommends serving with creamy polenta and here, I opted for a quick-cooking 5 minute version.

The prep
The prep

Stewed Sweet Sausages in Fennel-Tomato Sauce adapted from Food and Wine.com

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 sweet Italian sausages (about 2 pounds)
2 large fennel bulbs—trimmed, each bulb cut into 8 wedges, fronds chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
Kosher salt
One 28-ounce can San Marzano whole tomatoes, crushed, juices reserved
1 cup dry white wine
2 whole chiles de árbol

In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil. Add the sausages and cook over medium heat, turning, until nicely browned all over, 5 minutes. (Don’t rush this step, but also be careful not to overcook the sausages at this point.)

Transfer to a plate.

fensausagebrownsm
Browned sausages

Add the fennel wedges to the casserole and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes.

Browning the fennel
Browning the fennel

Add the onion, garlic, fennel seeds and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring, until the fennel is lightly browned, about 3 minutes.

fensausagefenonionsm
After adding the onion and garlic

Add the tomatoes and their juices, the wine, and chiles.

With the tomatoes, wine, and chili
With the tomatoes, wine, and chiles

Tuck the sausages into the sauce.

fensausagefinsm
During the last 45 minutes of cooking

Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Uncover and simmer until the sausages are cooked through and the sauce is thickened, about 45 minutes longer.

Garnish the stew with fennel fronds and serve over polenta.

Wine Pairing: Dolcetto d’Alba, Merlot

Grilled Fennel Sausage and Peperonata

sausagepepperssmall

I cannot count the number of times I’ve prepared Italian fennel sausages. Last night, however, influenced by some cooking show, I opted to grill rather than fry them. Not as fortunate as the show’s chef, who used an open fire, I was limited to a stovetop grill pan. Yet despite this restraint, I’m happy to report that this grilling method yielded thoroughly cooked links that were delectably moist and juicy.

To grill the sausages, I made a shallow slit, about a 1/4-inch deep, lengthwise along one side of each sausage and spread it slightly open to expose the meat. I then placed the sausages slit-side down on a hot grill pan over medium-high heat and cooked them for 5 minutes. When they were nicely browned, I turned and cooked the sausages for about an additional 5 minutes.

I served the sausages accompanied by this classic peperonata inspired by my Neapolitan aunt.

Peperonata
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 bell peppers, sliced into 1/4-inch wide strips (I prefer red, yellow, and orange to green)
1 large sweet onion, sliced lengthwise
3 small cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon dry Marsala

In a large sauté pan heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the sliced peppers and cook them, tossing occasionally, over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, or until they start to become tender and slightly charred.

Add the sliced onion and garlic, sprinkle with some salt, and cook them with the peppers, still over medium-high heat, for about another 10 minutes, again tossing occasionally, until golden brown. Add the Marsala, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. and cook for an additional minute or so. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Pairing the peperonta with the grilled sausages makes a perfect weekday supper as we start to enter fall.

Wine Pairing: Barbera d’Alba, Syrah

Beans and Sausage

sausagesplatedsmall

Earlier this month, I posted a Tuscan recipe from the Food Network for sausages and cannellini all’uccelletta that has always been one of our favorite weeknight dishes. However, I recently came across a variation on this recipe in Giuliano Hazan’s Every Night Italian.

The ingredients are almost identical, except for fresh sage leaves replacing fresh bay; however, in preparing this dish, Hazan skips the browning of the sausages and opts to braise them slowly along with the beans and tomatoes. (This also makes for a less messy stove top.)

This small variation makes for a big difference in taste. I found that both the sauce and the beans take on more flavor from the sausage and the sausages themselves are moister and richer in texture.

Of course, the southern Italian in me added just a pinch of Calabrian red-pepper flakes to spice things up a bit.

Beans and Sausage (Salsicce e Fagioli) adapted from Giuliano Hazan’s Every Night Italian.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
3 large garlic cloves, lightly crushed and peeled
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans drained and rinsed
1 can (16 ounce) crushed Italian tomatoes
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch dried red-pepper flakes
1 pound sweet Italian pork sausages (without fennel seeds)

Put the olive oil and garlic in a heavy bottomed sauté pan large enough to hold the sausages in a single layer. Place it over medium-high heat and sauté the garlic cloves until lightly browned on all sides.

When the garlic has browned, discard it and add the chopped sage to the pan and cook stirring for about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and beans. Season with salt and black pepper, keeping in mind that the sausages are already fairly salty. Add a pinch of dried red pepper flakes.

After adding the sausage to the pan
After adding the sausage to the pan

Add the sausage. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down to medium-low. Cover the pan and cook at a gentle simmer until the sausages feel tender when pricked with a fork, about 20 minutes. Check the pan occasionally and add a little water if all the liquid in the pan evaporates before the sausages are done. Also turn the sausages once with tongs, being careful not to pierce them.

Serve hot, drizzled with additional extra virgin olive oil and accompanied by crusty bread.

Wine Pairing: Barbera d’Asti, Rosso di Montalcino

Cauliflower Sausage Gratin

cavalfioreplatedsmall

Cauliflower has always been one of my favorite vegetables, especially when simmered slowly in onions in tomato sauce, a dish my Sicilian mother would often serve during Lent. I had originally planned to make this dish last night, but with my brother and his wife coming over for dinner, I thought I needed something more substantial for a main course. I looked through my files and found the answer: a recipe from television’s Iron Chef Michael Symon came to mind: cauliflower sausage gratin.

Sausage plays a supporting role in this dish, adding a savory succulence to the mild nutlike flavors of the cauliflower. A sweet tomato sauce with Vidalia onions and a buttery Parmigiano-panko crust complete the cast.

Cauliflower Sausage Gratin Adapted from Michael Symon

Ingredients

Olive Oil
3/4 pound Fennel Italian Sausage (removed from the casings)
1 medium head Cauliflower (about 2 pounds; cut in to small florets)
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper (to taste)
1 medium Onion (small diced)
4 Garlic cloves (minced)
28-ounce can crushed Italian tomatoes
1 cup Flat Leaf Parsley (chopped)
2/3 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
Unsalted butter

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Place a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil along with the sausage. Cook, breaking up the sausage as you go, until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add cauliflower to the pot and brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Depending on how much fat is left in the pan from browning the sausage, you may need to add some olive oil.

To the pan, add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook until the onions become soft and aromatic, about 5 minutes. When the onions are almost done, add the garlic, stirring to make sure the garlic does not brown.

Add the crushed tomatoes with their liquid, along with the sausage and any remaining juices. Bring the mixture up to a simmer and give it a taste, adding additional salt and pepper if necessary. Mix in the parsley, minus 1 tablespoon, and then pour the whole mixture in to a 13×9 baking dish.

In a small bowl, mix together the panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the sausage and cauliflower, dot with butter, and bake until golden brown on top and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then serve.

Just from the oven
Just from the oven

Garnish with parsley.

Here’s a link to Michael Symon’s recipe from The Chew

Wine Pairing: Morellino di Scansano, Merlot