"Food is our common ground, a universal experience." - James Beard

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Baked Rigatoni with Italian Sausage and Fennel

As I've mentioned several times this year, we have had a freezer full of venison that we've been trying to make our way through.  While I spent some time grading papers last weekend, Kent made this wonderful dish using venison sausage (found on allrecipes.com).  It made such a large meal that we were able to have it for dinner several nights.  This is a hearty meal and perfect for cool weather.  The fennel gives the dish a different taste than many other pasta dishes - it's sure to please!

Baked Rigatoni with Italian Sausage and Fennel
1 pound hot Italian sausage links
1 (16 ounce) package rigatoni pasta
1 (24 ounce) jar marinara sauce
1 bulb fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until almost tender, about 10 minutes.
2.Fry the sausages in a large skillet over medium heat, turning frequently until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove from the skillet, cool slightly and slice into rounds. Add the garlic, fennel and onion to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes, then add the roasted red peppers, basil, sliced sausage and pasta sauce. Heat through over low heat until warmed.
3.Combine the pasta with the sauce and vegetables in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Spread the mozzarella, Parmesan and Asiago cheeses over the top. Garnish with a few fennel leaves left from the bulb. Cover with aluminum foil.
4.Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, then remove the aluminum foil. Set the oven to broil, and cook for another 5 minutes or until cheese is browned.

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