Italian Salsiccia Finocchietto (Fennel Sausage) Stew

Okay I am being a smarty panster here. I am so lucky to have an incredible local grocer, Crown St Grocer, right near me and they source the most unbelievable italian fennel and pork sausage, Salsiccia Finocchietto, made with Berkshire pork that is hand reared. And a sausage this good deserves to be treated with respect and cooked with love. So a stew, you might think wait a second slow simmered for ages thats not love….but it is, long slow cooking to let the flavours develop. Try and get really good quality italian style pork sausage from a good deli or contact Salumi and see if they supply near you. Come on really, a pig raised in the amazing Northern Rivers of NSW. You know you want it.

Recipe: Italian Salsiccia Finocchietto Stew

Ingredients

  • 500g (1 pack of Salumi Salsiccia Finocchietto) pork fennel sausage
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 large brown onion chopped
  • 1 small fennel bulb thinly sliced
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 200g tins of cannelloni beans drained and rinsed
  • 2 200g tins of crushed tomatoes
  • 5 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
  • 10 good grids of black pepper
  • 1 fresh bay leaf or two dried
  • 3 cups chopped fresh baby spinach

Instructions

  1. Cut the sausage into 10cm lengths and then gentle slit the sin down the length, remove the skin and then cut the sausage into small chunks, roll them into small balls and coat in olive oil
  2. Gently fry the sauage meat balls on medium heat, keep them moving so they dont stick until they are coated on all sides and browned
  3. In a casserole style pot gently fry the onion and fennel in some olive oil until soft
  4. Add to the pot the stock, beans, tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme and pepper and stir gently to combine
  5. As the mix comes to the boil return the sausage pieces to the mix and then gently simmer with a lid on for about 90 minutes
  6. Then take the lid off and simmer to thicken the sauce for another 30 minutes
  7. Remove bay leaf.
  8. Add spinach and cook until wilted
  9. Serve with some steamed new potatoes if you like

Quick Notes

You can actually do this in a slow cooker too, set it on low for about 6 hours.

Cooking time (duration): 15

Number of servings (yield): 4

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: Italian

My rating: 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

Potato and Leek Soup

This is an old favourite and definitely one to warm a winters night. It is hearty and flexible you can vary the ingredients and even spice it up. In fact I love to toss in some cumin and coriander seed crushed to give it a little bit of an Asian feel. The absolute key to this dish is the leeks. Choosing leeks at their best in winter will deliver a truly memorable soup. Speak to your grocer and try to get the freshest produce possible.

Recipe: Potato and Leek Soup

Ingredients

  • Olive oil, you will need about a tablespoon.
  • 20g butter, I use unsalted then control the additional salt at the end.
  • 2 leeks, use the pale section and slice them down the centre. Wash them thoroughly and then thinly slice them
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed with the blade of your knife
  • 1kg potatoes, I use pontiacs or blues but get the freshest you can, peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 4 Cups (about a litre) of chicken stock or vegetable stock for the veg option 3 cups (around 750ml) of water
  • 1 cup (around 250ml) of thin cream
  • Finely chopped fresh chives to garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat oil and butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the leek and garlic and toss to coat. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, for 18-20 minutes or until soft. You dont want to burn them or give them any colour.
  3. Add the potato, stock and water to the pan. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook, partially covered, for 25-30 minutes or until potato is tender.
  4. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool.
  5. Using a stick blender blend the contents to a thick creamy consistency. If you do not have a stick blender then use a food processor and do it in batches moving the end result to a holding bowl before putting it back into the pot. Bring the heat back up to medium and stir in the cream keep it moving until it has completely warmed through.
  6. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Distribute the soup into bowls and top with chopped chives and a grind of fresh pepper.

Quick Notes

This recipe makes enough for 8 people, simply halve the ingredients for less people.

Variations

Often I will place a teaspoon of ground cumin and coriander seeds into the mix, add this during the potato simmer stage. Also some crispy bacon strips served on top are a luxurious addition.

Nonna’s Tagliatelle Bolognese – the real deal

Possibly one of the worlds most famous dishes is a Bolognese style sauce with pasta. There are possibly thousands of variations each one claiming to be original. Despite this the basic meat ragu sauce is at the heart of so many Italian dishes including Lasagne. An interesting fact here is that in Bologna the home of the sauce it was never served with spaghetti only with tagliatelle and there are some good reasons why. The sauce itself is extremely heavy and rich if made well and it needs a decent weighted pasta to carry it. The cooking time is long however its worth it, why not start it early afternoon go out and see some art and when you get home it will be ready to go.

This recipe is the simplest thing you may ever cook but it is also one of the most fantastic tasting. It is incredibly cheap and like many Italian dishes it comes from the heart and its great for using left over beef and pork mince. Cooking this takes me on a journey every time, over the simmering process the house fills with the most extraordinary smell that intensifies toward the end.

Ingredients

There is a simple rule here and its all you need to remember, 1/3 pork mince and 2/3 beef mince. That’s it. So this recipe should suit about 4 people. And when you buy your mince please don’t get incredibly lean mince on both of them, choose one and get the cheaper lower quality mince with some fat, this is important. If you are nervous then get the pork mince with a bit of fat.To be honest this is a dish that is asking for cheap mince.

  • 300g of beef mince
  • 200g pork mince
  • A large jar of tomato pasata. (this is concentrated tomato sauce in a large bottle normally about 750ml)
  • One pack of good quality dried tagliatelle, or thick ribbon pasta
  • Good quality parmigiana (parmesan) cheese

Cooking

Cooking this dish requires a sort of trust that despite its simple appearance it will end up tasting fantastic. But if its your first time I will encourage you to try tasting it as it cooks so you can see what happens over time.

  • First of all in a heavy based casserole dish with a tight lid heat a generous amount of olive oil and begin to brown all of the mince. As you stir it with a wooden spoon break up the chunks. Continue to do this until all of the mince is brown.
  • Now pour in the entire bottle of sauce and stir it around, you might like to add in a little bit of water and when you do put the water into the pasata jar, put the lid back on and shake it to collect up all the leftover sauce in the jar. At this point the sauce should be very wet, lots of liquid going on in the pot.
  • Bring the lot to the boil then turn it right down low and simmer. Now when I say simmer i mean very gently bubbling intermittently. If your stove top wont achieve this level of heat I recommend a simmer mat from a good home wares store. If you don’t have a simmer mat then put the oven on 120 and slip the whole lot into the oven with the lid on.
  • And your done, leave the lid on, simmering on the stove or in the oven for about 4 hours. Check it hourly and give it a very gentle stir. I also encourage you to taste a little bit at each stir point and find out what happens. The sauce goes from plain jane to saucy sally over the simmer time.
  • When you are ready to do the pasta simply boil the tagliatelle according the packets instructions. Once its done drain it well, stir through a small amount of olive oil to stop it sticking and keep it warm.

Plating Up

  • At this point you will need to add a little salt and pepper to the sauce, stir it well and taste.
  • Put a good sized, heavy based frying pan on to medium high heat.
  • Slop a decent sized ladle full of the sauce into the pan and it should sizzle immediately. Stir it around to fry it quickly and then drop in a single serve of the pasta with tongs. You will not need oil in the pan there is plenty of it in the sauce already.
  • Toss together and then slide it all into a bowl or onto a plate. Repeat this process.
  • Top with grated parmigiana cheese and serve. I like to put a bowl of extra cheese on the table and let people add more if they like.

Any left over sauce can be frozen and I love to have it reheated on a big baked potato.

Wine Match

Red is definitely the go here, something acidic and low in tannin. I encourage you to take a chance, shop around and find a local or Italian Barbera. You can find a list of Australian growers here or you can order a few online. Take the time to try it, experimenting with wine is as important as experimenting with recipes.

Let me know what you think when you cook it, I will put money on you making it again and again.