rigatoni with sausage onion and fennel

Rigatoni with Sausage, Onion & Fennel Recipe

1 lb whole wheat rigatoni
1 lb turkey sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion
1 fennel bulb, stalks removed and root core removed
2 Tablespoons olive oil
One 6 oz. can tomato paste
5 – 6 cups hot water
red pepper flakes (pepperoncini) to taste
salt & pepper to taste
finely grated parmesan or romano cheese

Heat a big pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Slice the onion and fennel. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute the onion and fennel with a sprinkle of salt in the olive oil until they just begin to caramelize. In a separate skillet, crumble the sausage and saute to brown. Add the tomato paste to the onion/fennel mixture and saute a couple minutes more to mix and slightly caramelize. Drain the browned sausage and add to the onion/fennel mixture. Add 5 to 6 cups of the hot pasta water to the onion/fennel/sausage mixture and stir. Add red pepper flakes if desired. Cover and simmer on low heat until the pasta is just undercooked. Taste the sauce and adjust seasonings if necessary. Drain the slightly undercooked pasta (undercooked by about one- to two minutes) and add it to the sauce and cook for another minute or two to allow the pasta to finish cooking in the sauce. The sauce will thicken from the starch in the pasta. Remove the pasta/sauce from heat and sprinkle in a handful of finely grated parmesan or romano cheese, stir. Serve immediately with additional grated cheese on top.