Dec 15, 2010

Penne Pasta with Turkey Sausage and Fennel

Penne pasta with turkey sausage, fennel and a touch of tomato paste.

It’s been quite awhile since I posted a new recipe to try BUT my first semester of grad school finally came to a close yesterday morning and has left me with much more time on my hands. I swear I turned in my test and walked out of the room five pounds lighter, as now my only responsibilities include work, cooking, relaxing and reading a book other than my text book or monstrous papers for class. Sounds like a spectacular holiday break to me! It’s also my goal to catch up on all my recipes that I’ve baked/cooked this semester. Despite all the craziness, we managed to continue our meals every night but y’all wouldn’t know it, as I’ve been slacking in actually sharing all these wonderful dinners we’ve had! I’ll start making up for that today!

We actually made this meal last night and it hit the spot after a long long day. I wasn’t the biggest fan of fennel but when you add it to meals such as this, it fills your bowl with flavor and is so delicious! The touch of tomato paste adds not just color but a nice balance of flavor with everything. As always, this is a quick meal: you’ll be sitting down to eat in about thirty minutes!

Here’s all the things you’ll need to put this wonderful dish together!


(Adapted from Cooking Light. Serves 2 dinner portions with leftovers for a lunch.)

  • ~ 2 cups of dried penne pasta (enough for two people with extra for lunch)
  • 2 mild italian turkey sausage links (casings removed)
  • 1 small fennel bulb
  • 2 or 3 tablespoon tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Start by bringing your pot of water for the pasta to a boil. This can get started while you start your turkey sausage. I should also note here that in all the pictures you’ll see that I used rigatoni instead of penne. I prefer penne pasta (and usually use it for this dish) but I was unfortunately out and had to use a substitute.

The turkey sausages need to have the casings removed. Make a cut down the center of the sausage (not too deep that you cut through the meat but enough to break the casing) and this should allow you to remove the casing from the meat. Once you have just your turkey sausage meat, heat some olive oil in a large pan and then add your turkey sausage. (I will sometimes just spray the pan with non-stick olive oil spray because your turkey sausage will have some natural grease to it.)

Turkey sausage in a pan on medium heat.

As the turkey sausage cooks, break the meat apart into small pieces. This will become easier the more it cooks through. You want the turkey sausage to cook for about 5-8 minutes, or until it starts to brown up. Once this happens, move the sausage to the side of your pan to make room for your fennel. The fennel bulb can be chopped into chunks or bite size pieces and remember that sometimes the outer layer of the bulb can be left out. Sometimes it doesn’t look too great.

Turkey sausage pushed to side of pan to make room for fennel to cook.

The turkey had lots of its own flavor but I add some salt and pepper to my fennel just to make sure they are fully seasoned. The fennel take a little longer to cook through but we are starting them off here with a nice saute. Let them cook for about 8 minutes again and then add the tomato paste. If you add the two tablespoons and feel that you want more, go for it! The tomato paste isn’t supposed to be a sauce necessarily, but is used more so as a flavoring to the dish. Be sure to really mix the tomato paste in and that everything is coated.

Once everything gets a good mix, add a few ladles of the pasta water to the fennel and sausage. If your fennel is still not done cooking, add the top to the pan and this will help your fennel cooking speed along.

Turkey sausage, tomato paste and fennel.

By this time your pasta should be just about done and you can add the drained pasta to the turkey sausage and fennel mixture. It will smell delicious, look delicious and most importantly taste delicious! You can add some fresh herbs, such as basil, if you’d like and grate some fresh parmesan cheese on top. You can also use regular sausage in this dish if you’d prefer but I should say that the flavor combination in this dish really spices up the turkey sausage and it is definitely not bland! The addition of the fennel is wonderful because it adds a little twist to the normal pasta and meat dishes that are the more traditional favorites. Make this dish though and I think you might have just found a new favorite dish to add to your pasta list! For now, that’s penne pasta with turkey sausage and fennel…in the shell of a nut!

Dinner is served: penne with turkey sausage and fennel!

Leave a comment