Recently my thoughts have been turning even more than usual towards Italy, Tuscany in particular (see here if you haven’t heard why). The recipe below uses a typical combination of fennel seeds and pork. The recipe is simple to prepare and delicious to eat. It is from a great book I got for Christmas, The Italian cookery course. This book is fast becoming one of my favorite cookbooks. So far I have cooked a winter minestrone soup from it (which was the best I’ve tasted) and this delicious tomato, sausage and fennel seed ragu with gnocchi. I can’t wait to find more time to cook more of the recipes. I also look forward to finding time to read this book cover to cover. The book includes lots of information on the ingredients used and traditional cooking in Italy and all it diverse regions. There are also lots of useful masterclasses on everything from breads, fresh pasta and risotto to stuffing a leg of lamb and how to bone a chicken or rabbit. To anyone who loves Italian food as much as I do this is 500 pages of wonderful writing, stunning photos of Italy and the food, lots of masterclasses and helpful techniques, not to mention several hundred delicious recipes. I am especially looking forward to spending some time trying out the bread recipes and masterclasses and also fresh pasta.
Back to the sausage ragu. I love the combination of fennel seeds and pork and this ragu works well with gnocchi as suggested in the book but I believe it would work equally as well with a pasta such as penne. I have only recently discovered gnocchi, its a nice change to pasta and very simple to cook (I love the way it floats to the top of the pan when it is ready). I really must find time to have a go at making my own gnocchi sometime soon. This recipe serves 6-8 and freezes well.
Tomato, sausage and fennel seed ragu with gnocchi
12 lean best-quality pork sausages
1 white onion, finely chopped
4 whole garlic cloves, lightly crushed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
4 bay leaves
250ml red wine
800g Italian tinned plum tomatoes
6 heaped teaspoons tomato puree
grated Parmesan to serve
Packed of gnocchi to serve 6-8
- Remove the sausage meat from the skins and chop up the meat to break it up.
- Put the olive oil in a large frying pan (I used a cast iron casserole pot) over a medium heat and add the garlic, salt and pepper. Fry for about 2 minutes until the garlic becomes light gold.
- Add the onion and fry for a few minutes, until translucent.
- Stir in the fennel seeds and bay leaves.
- Add the meat and fry for 6-7 minutes or until cooked through. Use a wood spoon to break up the mince and stop it sticking to the pan.
- Add the wine and allow to reduce for a couple of minutes, then add the tinned tomatoes and tomato puree and stir well.
- Leave the ragu to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Cook the gnocchi according to the packet instructions.
- Once cooked, drain the gnocchi and toss in the ragu.
- Serve with Parmesan scattered over the top.