pasta with fennel and salami

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Pasta with Fennel and Crispy Breadcrumbs

From the Culinate Kitchen collection by
Serves 4 to 6
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes


Two ingredients make this simple pasta dish so delicious: the flavor imparted from salami or Italian sausage, and the crunch of the fried breadcrumbs. It’s an easy recipe to adapt, so long as you include those two things. I first saw this “blokey, hardy” Tuscan dish in one of Jamie Oliver’s books, and have since streamlined it into a house standard.


4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
6 oz. spicy Italian bulk sausage (pork or chicken) or thick-cut salami (I especially like finocchiona)
1 tsp. crushed fennel seeds
~ Pinch of red-pepper flakes
1 fennel bulb, halved and thinly sliced, tops reserved and chopped, stalks discarded
1 can (28 ounces) crushed or whole plum tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved
~ Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
~ Half of a baguette or 4 to 5 thick slices crusty bread, crusts removed
1 lb. dried whole-wheat spaghetti


  1. Make the sauce: In a large pot or deep-sided sauté pan, warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage or salami and cook for several minutes, until the sausage is no longer pink or the salami begins to crisp. Add the fennel seeds, red-pepper flakes, and sliced fennel bulb; cook over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the tomatoes and their juices. Cook the sauce at a simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened. Season to taste with salt, black pepper, and more red-pepper flakes, if desired.
  2. Make the pasta: While the sauce is cooking, put on a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta according to package directions. If the tomato sauce seems too thick, add a ladle or two of the pasta cooking water to the sauce.
  3. Make the breadcrumbs: While the pasta water is coming to a boil, cut the de-crusted bread into small cubes, then pulse the cubes in a food processor until broken into small crumbs. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large pan, add the breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt, and fry the crumbs in the oil over medium heat, stirring often, until the crumbs turn a lovely golden brown. Remove from the heat.
  4. Assemble the dish: Toss the cooked pasta with the tomato sauce, then top with the crispy breadcrumbs and the reserved, chopped fennel tops.

This content is from the Culinate Kitchen collection.

There are 2 comments on this item
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1. by Teno1010 on Jul 14, 2010 at 11:07 AM PDT

You don’t indicate whether or not the sausage is out of its’ casing.
Just also wondering if the fennel would be overpowering. Can I leave out the fennel seeds and just use the fresh fennel or visa versa?
Thanks. Looks delicious.

2. by Carrie Floyd on Jul 14, 2010 at 10:31 PM PDT

Bulk sausage is the easiest, but if you can’t find it you can always free the meat from its casing. I think the fennel is subtle in this dish, which is why I like adding fennel seed to bring out its flavor. If you’re inclined to leave one out, opt for the seed, as the fennel bulb adds a nice texture to the sauce.

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