Today’s recipe is the sort of recipe I love: maximum flavour, minimum effort.
Rich and flavoursome Italian Pork and Fennel Ragu tastes like you’ve been slaving over a hot stove for hours, yet it takes under half an hour from switching on the stove to sitting down to eat. (my kinda recipe!)
The secret to a speedy Ragu
The secret is using coarse, country-style pork sausages instead of plain ground pork. Because sausages are already pre-seasoned, they add a huge whack of flavour to the dish, saving you hours of cooking time.
This is a popular and traditional method of making a quick, delicious ragu here in Northern Italy.
Which sausages should I use to make Ragu?
I’m glad you asked! It’s important to use the coarsest, Italian-style sausages you can find with high meat content.
If your local supermarket doesn’t have any, consider visiting your local butcher who may make or source them for you.
What should I serve with pork and fennel ragu?
I’ve made some fabulous, fresh pappardelle this morning for this pasta, so if you want to go the extra mile, why not serve it with my super easy fresh homemade pasta recipe. Otherwise, it tastes great with any dried or fresh pasta.
Naturally a full bodied Italian red wine like Chianti is the perfect wine match for this meal.
A note on fennel seeds
When you’re buying fennel seeds, look for seeds that have still a tinge of pale, mint green, they will be fresher with much better flavour.
I tend to avoid buying herbs and spices at the supermarket if at all possible as they’ve generally been sitting round for ages.
For the freshest, tastiest herbs and spices, visit an Indian or Turkish grocer, not only will the spices be fresher, they’ll likely be cheaper as well.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I can’t get fresh pappardelle (or any pappardelle!) what can I use instead?
Fresh homemade pasta! Trust me, its super easy! If you don’t fancy making it yourself, any dried pasta will do, though don’t use spaghetti. For a full meal, I usually cook 100g-125g dried pasta per person.
What do you mean by country-style sausages?
For this ragu to be extra delicious, you need high meat content, coarsely ground sausages. Anything that is finely ground or more of a luncheon sausage texture will not work as well here.
Can I use other types of sausages or just mince?
I think this recipe would work well with lamb sausages, I’d swap the fennel for oregano though and maybe crumble over a little tangy feta cheese.
Minced pork or beef will work but sausages are what makes this recipe quick as they are pre-seasoned. If you are cooking with minced meat you’ll need a longer cooking time and to season more generously. Use a 500g (1 lb.) pack of pork mince.
Why is there sugar in this recipe?
Good question! I find, unless you are using very expensive, high-grade tinned tomatoes (I don’t!) that they are often a little on the sour side (they’re preserved with citric acid) and need some help. Feel free to leave it out, or substitute with 2 tsp tomato paste.
Italian Pork and Fennel Ragu
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 6 Italian-style pork sausages, skin removed
- 2 fat cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped
- 1 tsp chilli flakes, to taste
- 125 ml red wine
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 400 g can of whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 tsp sugar
- sea salt and black pepper
- 400 g fresh pappardelle pasta
- 75 g Parmesan, grated
- COOK THE SAUSAGES: Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, crumble in the sausages, breaking them up with your fingers as you go. Add the garlic, fennel, rosemary and chilli flakes to the pan. Use a wooden spoon to break up the sausage meat as finely as possible, and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes until the sausage begins to colour.
- ADD THE LIQUIDS: Mix the wine with the balsamic vinegar and pour into the pan. Allow to simmer for 1 minute, then use a pair of clean scissors to chop the tomatoes right in the can. Add the tomatoes, sugar and half a can (the tomato can!) of water. Season with black pepper, give it all a good stir, then simmer over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until the ragu is thick and rich. Taste and season with extra salt and pepper if necessary.
- COOK THE PASTA: Meanwhile, cook the pappardelle in a large pot of boiling salted water until al-dente. With fresh pasta, this only takes a few minutes, dried pasta up to 10 minutes. When the pasta is cooked but still has a little bite, drain into a colander, rinse with cold running water, then toss with a little olive oil and set aside.
- SERVE: When the ragu is cooked, toss well with the pasta and divide between four warmed plates. Sprinkle over the Parmesan and serve. This is lovely with a simple rocket/arugula salad and a Italian style red wine, a Chianti or Primitivo would be perfect.
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