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Carhartt Family Wines

Ziti Pasta with Sausage and Fennel

Pairs well with the 2020 Estate Cabernet Franc

Yield: 3-4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes


  • ½ lb Ziti (or Penne)
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ lb Italian sausage
  • 1 fennel bulb (about 1 lb)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced into half moons
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp fennel fronds, finely chopped
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • Fresh Parsley 1 tbsp diced (optional garnish)

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add 2 big pinches of salt to the water, then the pasta. Cook until al dente (about 2 minutes less than recommended cooking time on the package). Save 2 cups of the pasta water, then drain the rest, but don’t rinse. Set the pasta aside.

Meanwhile, remove casings from the sausage and break up the meat with your fingers. 

Slice off the root end of the fennel bulb and the stalks and fronds, but keep the fronds for later. 

Slice the bulb lengthwise in half and peel off the tough outer layer. Cut out the inner core and slice the two halves crosswise and into ¼ inch slices, about 2 cups worth. 

Heat the oil in a large skillet with high sides (saute pan) over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook for about 2 minutes, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon. Push the meat to the sides and add the onion to the center of the pan, stirring and cooking for about 2 minutes, then mix the meat and onion together. Make a hole in the center again and add the fennel, cooking for a minute or so, then mix with the meat and onions. Season with a little salt and make another hole. Add the red pepper flakes, toast for about 30 seconds, then add the tomato paste and cook for about 2 minutes, mixing with the back of a wooden spoon, then mix all ingredients together. 

Ladle in 1 ½ cups of the pasta water, stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer for another 5-6 minutes when the sauce will thicken and the fennel will slightly soften. 

Add the al dente pasta to the pan which will loosen up as it mixes with the sauce. Cook for about 2 or so minutes and add a little more pasta water if the mixture seems too dry. Add the fennel fronds and mix together gently.

Remove the pan from the heat, top with grated parmesan, mix again, and serve in pasta bowls with additional cheese if desired.

Optional garnish: diced fresh parsley on top

Pair with the 2020 Estate Cab Franc.