Ina’s Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel

Doesn’t this pasta dish look delicious with sweet sausage and anise flavored fennel? In my recent Food Network Magazine this was one of the recipes and feeling the need for some comfort food I knew this had to be on my menu soon.

This pasta dish is rich but you can use lower fat cream or even milk. The fennel makes up for the fat, right? It’s a nice veggie to incorporate into this recipe – I like the addition of this licorice-like flavor with so many health benefits!

Ina's Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cups fennel, chopped (1-2 bulbs) (keep the stalks and leaves to add to soup stocks)
  • 1-1/2 cups onion, chopped
  • 1-1/4 lbs.  sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 2 tsp. garlic, minced (add to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, crushed (add to taste)
  • 2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup half and half
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 lb. rigatoni
  • 1/2 cup freshly parsley leaves, minced
  • 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano , divided (or more)

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven and add the fennel and onions. Saute for about 8 minutes until tender. Break up the sausage into small pieces and add to the fennel mixture. Cook another 8 minutes until nicely browned. Next, add the garlic, crushed fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. black pepper; cook for a minute.

Pour in the wine and bring to a boil; then add the heavy cream, 1/2 and 1/2 and tomato paste. Bring back to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.

Cook the rigatoni according to package directions with 2 tbsp. salt. Drain and save a little water (just in case) and add the pasta to the sauce, stirring to coat. Cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and 1/2 cup Parmigiano.

Serve with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmigiano.

You can make this ahead for up to a day; spoon into a baking dish, bring to room temperature and bake for about 20 minutes at 375°F.

Recipe by

Fennel bulbs and the chopped fennel cooking with the onions…

31 thoughts on “Ina’s Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel

  1. Anything with fennel/fennel seeds is good by me, let alone such a wonderful pasta dish! Love how the licorice flavor is combined with the slight acidity of the wine and richness of the cream. The perfect on a cold day.


  2. I just happened to stumble on your site while looking for Ina’s Cauliflower and Pasta recipe.
    It was supposed to be a quick look. I’ve been sitting here for almost an hour,
    Thank you ! You’re a “Favorite” now!


    • Thanks so much – this recipe is perfect as I did not change anything. I like Ina a lot and post a number of her recipes. You will love this creamy, cheesy and hearty pasta dish. Ina’s cauliflower recipe is a tad dry. I would stir in the ricotta instead of dolloping it on top and maybe make more of a sauce.


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