A big pot of simmering red sauce makes chef April Bloomfield think of the home kitchen of her former boss Ruth Rogers. This is Bloomfield's version of the sauce, with sausage and big pieces of fresh fennel added. “I just love slow-cooked fennel,” she says. “It gives the dish a nice, soft creaminess with the slightly bouncy sausage.”
Slideshow: More Sausage Recipes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
12 sweet Italian sausages (4 1/2 pounds)
3 fennel bulbs—trimmed, each bulb cut into 8 wedges, fronds chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
One 28-ounce can San Marzano whole tomatoes, crushed with your hands, juices
1 cup dry white wine
3 pequin chiles (see Note) or 2 chiles de árbol
Creamy polenta, for serving
How to Make It
In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil. Add half of the sausages and cook over moderate heat, turning, until browned all over, 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with the remaining sausages.
Add the fennel wedges to the casserole and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, fennel seeds and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring, until the fennel is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices, the wine and chiles. Tuck the sausages into the sauce. Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Uncover and simmer until the sausages are cooked through and the sauce is thickened, about 45 minutes longer. Garnish the stew with fennel fronds and serve over polenta.
The stewed sausages can be refrigerated for up to 2 days; rewarm before serving.
Small, spicy dried red Mexican pequin chiles are available at Latin American markets and specialty food stores.
For these sausages, look for a wine that has a lot of juicy red fruit but not a lot of tannins.
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