Pasta with fennel, sausage and sweet peppers

This recipe was designed to go with orecchiette, and it assumes you will make the pasta yourself. But you could substitute another pasta, including dried pasta. If you do this, you’ll probably want a shape that has some body. The recipe makes four servings.

Pasta with fennel, sausage and sweet peppers

1 pound fennel bulbs, quartered and core removed
1 pound small sweet peppers, stemmed and seeds removed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more as needed for pasta
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 recipe homemade pasta dough
10-ounces Italian sausage, casings removed
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup grated Parmesan, divided
1 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 475 degrees, with the rack in the top part of the oven.

Slice fennel and peppers crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. In a large bowl, toss with olive oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Spread out over two rimmed baking sheets and roast for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating pans as necessary until evenly browned and tender. Set aside.

To make orecchiette: On a lightly floured work surface, take a golf ball size piece of pasta dough and roll it into a 1/2-inch wide log. Slice the log into 1/8 inch pieces. Using a thumb, or the tip of a dinner knife, firmly press into the center of the disc. Form the pasta around the pad of your finger like a shell to make a well indented circle.

Heat a large pot of water over high heat until boiling. Add enough kosher salt to season the water like sea water. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 3 to 4 minutes. Reserve about 1 cup pasta water and drain orecchiette through a colander. Return pasta to pot, toss lightly with olive oil and set aside.

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat, add sausage and cook until browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Add garlic, shallot, thyme and pepper flakes and cook until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add tomato paste, roasted vegetables, pasta, and reserved cooking liquid. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Reduce heat and cook until the sauce coats the pasta, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the grated cheese and basil. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Divide between four bowls. Serve immediately with remaining grated cheese on the side.

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