Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Venison sausage meets pasta

Over the weekend, I made a quick and easy pasta dish; venison sausage with fennel, red wine, and fusili.

I got the idea from an excellent Patricia Wells cookbook, At Home In Provence. The dish is fairly simple with a handful of ingredients, and it can be thrown together very quickly. The rich sauce is made entirely of tomato paste and red wine seasoned with fennel seeds. Additional body is added with an egg and cheese mixture that is stirred in right at the end. Along with a splash of pasta cooking water, this creates a silky texture.

Her recipe called for Italian sausage, but I had something else in mind. My brother had given me some of his homemade onion and garlic venison sausage. Really flavorful stuff, and perfect for a pasta dish like this. And the recipe in the book did not call for mushrooms and peas. I added them for some contrast in texture, additional flavor, and a little color.

Here is my interpretation of the recipe:

Jean's Venison Sausage with Fusili, Fennel, and Red Wine

-2 T. olive oil
-1 lb. venison sausage (or Italian sausage), removed from casings
-2 t. fennel seeds
-1 6 oz can tomato paste
-2 c. red wine
-8 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
-1 c. frozen peas
-12 oz. fusilli pasta (or other short pasta like penne or ziti)
-2 eggs, beaten
-1/4 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
-Fresh ground black pepper
-Reserved pasta cooking water

Heat the olive oil in a large deep skillet. Brown the venison sausage, breaking up the meat with your spoon. Add the fennel seeds. Allow to cook until just about all the pink is gone. Add the tomato paste, stirring it into the meat, and allow to cook for a couple of minutes. Add the red wine and the mushrooms. Bring to a quick boil, reduce heat, and let it simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Add the pasta and cook to just shy of al dente. Be sure to save a cup of the pasta cooking water for later.

While the pasta is cooking, beat a couple of eggs in a dish. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to the eggs, along with some generous twists of fresh ground black pepper. Set aside.

Drain the pasta and toss it into the sauce. Stir until all the noodles are nicely coated with the sauce.

Remove the pasta and sauce from the heat. With a large spoon, gently stir in the egg and cheese mixture, using just enough reserved pasta water to help thin out the sauce (this is a judgment call on your part!). Stir well to be sure the eggs do not curdle.

When the sauce achieves the desired texture, it is ready to serve. Be sure to have a little extra Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on hand to sprinkle over the dish. Enjoy!