Umami Recipes
Umami Recipes

Mom’s Recipes

Red Hen Mezzi Rigatoni With Fennel Sausage Ragu

6 servings


1 hour

total time


½ teaspoons fennel seeds

¼ cups plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 (24-ounce) jar tomato passata (see Where to buy)

2 teaspoons fennel pollen (see headnote)

½ teaspoons dried oregano

½ teaspoons fine salt, plus more for the pasta water

¼ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 pound mild Italian sausage, preferably from links with casings removed, broken into 1-inch pieces

12 ounces dried mezzi rigatoni pasta (may substitute regular rigatoni or another short pasta with ridges)

2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter

5 tablespoons finely grated pecorino Romano, plus more for serving

3 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


In a small skillet over low heat, toast the fennel seeds until fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a plate to cool, then finely grind in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a cold large pot, combine 1/4 cup of the olive oil and the garlic. Turn the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is lightly toasted around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Slowly stir in the passata, followed by the ground fennel, fennel pollen, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the black pepper. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until somewhat thickened and darker, adjusting the heat as needed to prevent scorching or splattering, 20 to 25 minutes. When you drag a spatula through the sauce, it should briefly hold a line where you can see the pan underneath.

While the sauce is simmering, line a large plate with towels and keep it nearby. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the remaining olive oil until shimmering. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until well-browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer the sausage to the prepared plate to drain the fat.

Add the sausage to the tomato sauce and continue to simmer for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

Once the water is boiling, salt it (for about 1 gallon of water, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of fine salt). Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions, until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water, then drain.

Reduce the heat under the sauce to low, and stir in the butter until it is incorporated and the mixture is glossy. Add the pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano, and stir to incorporate and create a smooth sauce. Add the cooked pasta to the tomato sauce. Gradually add the pasta water, stirring until the sauce coats the pasta. If it seems a bit runny, continue to cook and stir over low heat until the sauce adheres to the rigatoni.

Transfer to a serving platter or bowl and serve warm, topped generously with more grated pecorino Romano.


Serving Size

Per serving (1 1/2 cups)



Total Fat

29 g

Saturated Fat

9 g

Unsaturated Fat


Trans Fat



42 mg


1103 mg

Total Carbohydrate

51 g

Dietary Fiber

6 g

Total Sugars

8 g


19 g

6 servings


1 hour

total time
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