I’ve lightened up an old family favorite here by using turkey sausage, but feel free to use sweet (or hot) Italian pork sausage if you prefer, just decrease the olive oil by a tablespoon or two. The fennel adds freshness any time of year.
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 pound sweet turkey Italian sausage (without fennel seeds), removed from casings
- 1 large fennel bulb, cored and sliced ¼ inch thick, ½ cup fronds chopped
- 1 large onion, sliced
- Kosher salt
- ½ cup tomato paste
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 pound rigatoni
- 1 cup grated Grana Padano, plus more for serving
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Crumble in the turkey sausage. Cook, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
Add the sliced fennel and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just tender, about 6 minutes. Season with salt and a large pinch of peperoncino.
Make a space in the center of the skillet and add the tomato paste. Cook and stir the tomato paste in that spot until it is toasted and darkened a shade or two, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the wine, bring to a simmer and stir to make a smooth thick sauce. Add 3 cups of the pasta cooking water and bring to a simmer to reduce.
Add the rigatoni to the boiling water and stir. Simmer the sauce until reduced by about half, about 10 minutes. When the pasta is al dente, remove with a spider to the sauce. Sprinkle with the chopped fennel fronds and drizzle with olive oil.
Toss to coat the pasta with the sauce, adding a little pasta water if it seems dry. Remove the skillet from the heat. Sprinkle with the grated cheese, toss and serve, passing more cheese at the table.