Ziti with Sausage, Onions, and Fennel

By Lidia Bastianich, from The Silver Spoon

Farmers Note:  this recipe is a little hard to follow, but it really tastes great.  Just keep the sauté going and all will be well.


1 TBSP. sea salt                                                           1 lb. sweet Italian sausage

1 large bulb fennel                                                         5 TBSP. EV Olive oil

2 onions, halved and sliced                                            ½ tsp chile flakes

½ cup tomato paste                                                      1 lb. ziti

1 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese                              


  1. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil.
  2. Remove the sausage from its’ casings and break up the meat. 
  3. Slice the fennel lengthwise into ¼” slices.  Separate the layers of fennel if they are attached at the base and cut into 2-inch long pieces. 
  4. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add sausage, and cook for 1-½ minutes. 
  5. Push sausage to one side; add onions, stirring constantly until sizzling and wilting, then stir in with meat. 
  6. Push the onion and sausage mixture to one side, and add fennel and cook for one minute until wilted then stir in with the sausage and onion mixture.
  7. Push the mixture aside.  Sprinkle in half the salt, add chile flakes and toast for 30 seconds, and then stir them in. 
  8. Move the mixture to the sides of the pan, add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes, then stir into sausage mixture. 
  9. Add pasta to boiling water and cook until almost al dente
  10. Ladle 3 cups of salted, boiling water into the skillet, stir well, and bring to boil.  Lower heat and simmer for about 6 minutes until fennel is soft but not mushy. 
  11. Drain pasta and add to simmering sauce; finish cooking the pasta to al dente in the sausage, fennel, and onion mixture.  Add more pasta water if sauce is too thick. 
  12. Sprinkle with fennel fronds and toss.  Remove from heat, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and serve.