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Fennel Sausage and Mushroom Pasta

This recipe is a quick and inexpensive pasta dish perfect for any weeknight. With a green salad and nice bottle of wine you could easily transform this into a casual dinner party meal.  The fresh made tomato sauce is a great way to use up under or over ripe cherry tomatoes that you have in the fridge, if the tomatoes have really poor flavor you may need to add a teaspoon of sugar to the sauce, just give it a taste to decide.  If you are trying to be healthy opt for a whole wheat or high protein pasta or go meatless and increase the spices in the dish while omitting the sausage. You will never miss the meat.

The fennel and red pepper are big bold flavors and the rich feel that the cheese gives to the sauce is as good as anything you will find in a restaurant. By sautéing the mushrooms in with the sausage they will pick up all the nice flavor of the fennel sausage and it will taste like twice the meat is in the dish. Don’t skimp on the quality of the sausage, I will normally make a trip to a good Italian market for their best fennel sausage, which is a very affordable item, and it will store frozen until you are ready to use it.

3 pints of cherry tomatoes

1 large onion

3-4 tablespoon olive oil

1 pinch crushed red pepper flake

1 pinch fennel seeds

2-4 fennel sausages (remove the casings)

1-2 cups sliced mushrooms

1 lbs of mixed veggies (yellow squash, zucchini, mushrooms, asparagus, peas, and/or eggplant)

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup white wine

1 lbs pasta of your choice

Fresh basil for garnish

Salt and Pepper

In a pan on the stove put the whole rinsed cherry tomatoes and diced onion over medium heat with some olive oil. Add the red pepper flake and fennel seeds, if you want to make this a vegetarian dish omit the sausage later in the recipe and double the amount of fennel here.Allow the pan to cook until the tomatoes start to brown and pop, 15 minutes give or take. Then add the white wine to the pan, allow alcohol to burn off.

Before you add the wine the sauce will have cooked down and thickened while the tomatoes have popped.

Set aside and let cool for a few minutes then pour into a food processor and pulse until smooth, add 3/4 cup of the Parmesan to the sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. You can do this portion of the recipe ahead of time.Boil pasta per package directions. Don’t forget to salt the pasta water. You might need some later to thin your sauce so be sure to reserve a little when you drain your pasta.

While pasta cooks, in a large pan on the stove brown the sausage breaking it up into small crumbles. Then add the sliced mushrooms letting them cook until they release all their water. When cooked add the other veggies cooking until almost tender then add the tomato sauce and pasta into the pan.Toss to coat the pasta, if sauce is to thick use pasta water to thin. Plate with the remaining cheese and lots of fresh basil, serve the rest of the white wine with your meal.

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