Serves 4 to 6
Italians love fennel, finocchio, but Americans are just getting familiar with it. It is terrific raw and in Piedmont is dipped raw into hot oil with anchovies. It is also great solo as a braised vegetable. I love the hint of anise flavor in it and the crunchy crack under my teeth went I eat it raw as a snack. The crumbled sausages make this a very flavorful vegetable dish and it can also be used to dress pasta. It can be made in advance, keeps well and reheats well. What more could you ask of a vegetable?
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 8 ounces sweet Italian sausage without fennel seeds, removed from casings
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored and cut in 1-inch chunks
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Pinch peperoncino flakes
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. When the oil is hot, saute’ the onion and sausage, crumbling the sausage with the back of a wooden spoon, until the meat is no longer pink, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Push the sausage and onion to the sides of the pan to create a clear spot in the center, and plop in the tomato paste. Let the tomato paste toast for a minute or two, then stir it into the vegetables. Toss in the fennel, and season with the salt and peperoncino. Lower the heat, cover the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is tender and caramelized, about 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover, and increase the heat to cook away any excess liquid in the pan, if necessary.