Enjoy an easy, yet hearty post-Thanksgiving meal
At first glance mezzi rigatoni with sausage and radicchio looks like a classic Bolognese or meat sauce. Conceptually, it's the same. A pasta dish that seems to hit the spot as an easy yet hearty post-Thanksgiving meal in the weeks leading up to the next holiday. However, the radicchio and fresh fennel -- both of which are naturally packed with flavor and at their peak growing season this time of year -- up the ante big time with a sophistication that melds beautifully with the already ambrosial Italian sausage.
If you associate bitterness with raw radicchio, you're not alone. Taming the sharp flavor is easy though with a quick 10 minute saute. When combined with naturally sweet and licorice-laced fennel -- and keep in mind you're cooking the radicchio in the pan containing the fat that was naturally released from the sausage -- you'll love the subtle bitter notes that remain. Once the vegetables that have cooked with the fragrant garlic and the tangy red onions, and the sausage is reintroduced to the pan, the dish comes together effortlessly. I use jarred tomato sauce for ease and add a dry red wine such as Morellino di Scansano from the hilly coastal region of Tuscany.
Have fun with the mezzi rigatoni here, too. This short, tubular pasta is ideal for holding meat-based sauces and always seems to bring the Batalis right to the table. Garnish with generous amount of freshly grated Asiago cheese for a dinner that might just become a post-holiday tradition in your household as well.
Mezzi Rigatoni with Sausage and Radicchio
Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 as a main
2 pounds Italian sausage (sweet or hot) casings removed, crumbled
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
1 red onion, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
1 fennel bulb, ribs and fronds discarded, bulb finely chopped