Thursday, 31 January 2013

Tomato, meatball and fennel pasta recipe

This is one of those recipes  that you can whip up pretty quickly and it looks like you've spent a good old bit of time in the kitchen carefully blending ingredients to make something hearty and warming. If you're a bit of a cad you can reinforce the lie by listing off a long list of ingredients you obviously used and leaving herb jars out on the side, or you can just 'fess up and have people gasp at your kitchen ingenuity - I mean, Nigella's made a career from cutting corners, so why can't you?

Easy balls...

The meatballs in this recipe need to be top notch, so buy the best sausages you can afford and make sure they have a high meat content - you can afford to pay a bit more as the sausages stretch quite far prepared in this way. Go for free range/organic, as at least you know the piggies have had a good life before being mercilessly slaughtered for you the benefit of your tummy - after all, pigs are more intelligent than dogs and suffer shamefully in an intensive system (enough preaching now).

As expressed in previous blog posts, I can't survive without tomatoes, so when my ethical wranglings are too much for me to buy imported fresh ones, I satisfy my cravings at this time of year with tons of tinned toms.

I'm a little obsessed with fennel at the moment, but it's the one thing that makes this everyday dish a little unusual, leaving people puzzling to put their finger on what that floral, aniseedy backnote is. Including the fennel lightens the dish and means you can pair this with a mouthy white as well as a lighter red. Or both, if you want to drink that much...

Tomato, Meatball and Fennel Pasta

Serves two - Prep 10 min - Cook 25 min


 - 4 high meat content free range/organic sausages
 - 1 tsp of fennel seeds
 - 1 smallish onion, finely chopped
 - 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
 - 1/2 red pepper, finely diced
 - 100g mushrooms, finely sliced
 - 1 tsp tomato puree
 - 1 x 400g chopped tomatoes
 - Salt and freshly ground pepper
 - 1/2 tsp sugar
 - Olive oil for cooking
 - 150g pasta of your choice


1. Make sure your sausages are at room temp. Taking each sausage one at a time, squeeze out the sausage meat from the casing in three separate amounts; squeeze each bit of the sausage in to a small ball. Repeat with eat sausage.

2. Put a pan on to medium high heat and once hot fry the sausage balls until brown on the outside, but not cooked all the way through - you won't need to add any oil to the pan as enough will come out of the sausages. You'll need to fry the balls in batches, to make sure they fry and don't just steam. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Browned balls

3. Turn the heat down and in the same pan (don't wipe it out!) add the the fennel seeds and cook for  30 seconds until they become fragrant; then soften the onions and after three minutes, add the garlic and soften - keep stirring/turn heat down to make sure these don't catch or they will introduce a bitter note to the dish.

4. Once the garlic and onion has softened, add the pepper and the mushrooms and cook for a couple of minutes until they start to soften.

5. Add the tomato puree and the tomatoes, turn the heat up and add the sausage balls to the pan. Keep this blipping away on a medium heat as you boil a kettle for the pasta.

6. Put the water in a large pan, salt it and once to comes to a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook to the instructions.

7. Whist the pasts is cooking, check the seasoning on the sauce and keep it blipping away. Sometimes I add a dash of worcester sauce if I feel lacks a bit of flavour.

8. Drain the pasta, plate and add the sauce on top to raptuous applause (whilst you hide the sausage packet!).

NB thism sauce can also be used as a filling for lasgne, to have with potatoes, to accompany veg etc etc - it's not just for pasta!

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