The art of naming dishes is not to be underestimated. It seems so easy – just describe the dish succinctly, while conveying a sense of what the diner can expect upon first bite. But that’s the problem; often, a dish is a culmination of ideas, something that defies a five-word description and begs a full paragraph.
When I wrote the menu for Kitchen Surfing, what I said was “Ravioli with Sausage and Fennel,” but what I meant was “Sausage Ravioli with Fennel Sauce.” It’s a subtle difference, but it’s worth correcting.
This dish came together from the desire to capture the flavor of Calabrian sausage – fennel seed and a distinct kick from cayenne and paprika – in a ravioli. I also wanted to echo the fennel seed in the sausage by using fresh fennel in the sauce.
I won’t be posting a recipe for sausage. I’ve only made this sausage once and would be remiss to instruct others, but I was inspired by this and by the flavors of my favorite salami. I ground about 10 lbs of pork shoulder and then mixed that with salt, wild fennel seed, cayenne, and paprika, and then allowed the sausage to sit/cure for about 3 days. If you don’t care to make your own sausage, see these guys.
This recipe is meant to serve as an inspiration – making stuffed pasta for dinner isn’t out of the question. You can make the ravioli ahead of time (like over the weekend – it can be a fun family activity, believe it or not.) Ravioli freezes especially well and can be waiting for you when you’re ready later in the week. The sauce is easy to make and can turn almost any fennelphobe into a fennel-lover. No, really! If homemade ravioli isn’t your game, consider trying this fennel sauce with spaghetti and shrimp.
Sausage Ravioli with Fennel Sauce
1 lb. Calabrese Sausage, cooked, fat drained
1 cup Ricotta
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
1/4 cup Breadcrumbs
Salt, to taste
Combine ingredients and mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil.
Make an assembly line with your pasta sheets, ravioli filling, a spoon, a small dish of water, and either your ravioli press or a ravioli cutter. Boil a test ravioli from the first batch to assess filling ratios. Store on a floured sheet tray or several plates either refrigerated or frozen, depending on when you plan on using them.
To prepare, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add ravioli to water and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove using a spider or slotted spoon. I place my ravioli directly in my sauce pot to avoid them sticking to one another. Then I carefully sauce them and plate them one by one and garnish with fresh basil and shaved parmesan.
1 cup Olive Oil
2 bulbs Fennel, cored and thinly sliced
1 large Onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves Garlic, smashed
2 (28 oz.) cans Cento Italian-Style Tomatoes
1 hefty pinch Magic Sprinkles
A few Basil leaves, chopped (and more for garnish)
Salt, to taste
In a large sauce pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add fennel, onion, and garlic, and lower the heat to medium. Saute until translucent and lacking in any fibrous resistance. You’re not trying to develop color. Add tomatoes, Magic Sprinkles, and salt. Stir, taste, season, taste. Allow to simmer for 15 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Don’t be intimidated by the idea of making pasta at home. It takes up kitchen space and precious time, sure, but it’s surprisingly easy and extremely rewarding!