Risotto-Style Pasta with Fennel, Sausage, and Rosemary
I was blessed with a rare day off today. Since my company is British, the celebration of Easter Monday spreads around to all of our offices worldwide, and even though I have barely worked a day and a half in the past week and a half, I was still glad to have this day to relax at home and catch up on the ultra-necessities: guitar, laundry, and Iron Chef America.
When I was planning my week’s menu on Friday, I came across this recipe that I had previously flagged and wanted to give it a shot. Unfortunately, I wasn’t too hot on the idea of making a barley risotto, so I explored some other options. After some waffling, I decided I wanted to try to cook absorption pasta, or pasta cooked risotto-style. I had been reading about it for a while in various articles and recipes and finally wanted to see if it would work for us. Good news: it did!
We used gemelli, but really any short pasta will do. I would have probably done a rotini or penne if we didn’t already have some gemelli in the house. Other than that, usual risotto preparation steps applied, and some parmesan and rosemary were mixed in at the end. It was simply fantastic; the pasta takes on a chewier texture as if it were fresh instead of boxed, and you can nail the perfect “al dente” texture by approaching it gradually instead of hoping you time the boiling correctly. All in all, I have to recommend the method, although more involved than the usual boiling, for its solemness and wonderful results.
Risotto-Style Pasta with Fennel, Sausage, and Rosemary (Serves 8)
- 1 fennel bulb, cored and diced, fronds reserved
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 shallots, minced
- 1 1/4 lbs. hot Italian sausage (we used turkey, pork would work just fine)
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 4-5 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves pulled off and chopped, stems reserved
- 1 lb. (16 oz.) dried small pasta, such as gemelli or rotini
- 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper
- Bring broth to a light simmer (not a boil) in a medium saucepan and add rosemary stems to steep.
- In a large pot, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add garlic and shallots and cook until fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 1 minute.
- Break sausage links up into pot and separate with a wooden spoon into small pieces. Boost heat to medium-high and keep things moving so the sausage browns evenly.
- Once sausage is no longer pink, add fennel to pot and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fennel is softened.
- Add pasta to pot and combine thoroughly, until pasta is well-coated with oil. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, then turn heat back down to medium.
- Ladle in about 1 1/2 – 2 cups of broth, and stir every 30 seconds or so to make sure all of the pasta is evenly simmering in the liquid.
- As the liquid fully absorbs into the pasta, add the rest of the liquid, one ladleful at a time, stirring occasionally to evenly distribute everything. Start to taste the pasta after the third or fourth addition of liquid, and keep adding liquid until the pasta is cooked through, no more.
- Remove from heat, stir in the rosemary and most of the parmesan, and serve immediately. Garnish with the rest of the cheese and some fennel fronds.