I always like to get a cookbook for Christmas, and this year I was happy to receive the latest from the Barefoot ContessaCooking for Jeffrey. This is the first recipe I’ve tried, and it’s a winner! Onion and fennel are sautéed with sausage and spices, simmered in a tomato-cream sauce, tossed with cooked pasta and baked. You can also make it ahead.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Look for sausages, Parmesan, tomato paste and spices with no colour or preservatives added. I used a white wine from Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Frogpond Farm organic winery that contains only naturally occurring sulfites.

Saute fennel, onion and sausage

Toss cooked pasta with sauce and press into baking dish, topping with Parmesan

I refrigerated the dish for several hours and then baked it until it was heated through and brown on top


3 tbsp (45 ml) olive oil

3 cups (750 ml) chopped fennel (1 large bulb)

1½ cups (375 ml) chopped yellow onion

1¼ lb (565 g) sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed

2 tsp (10 ml) minced garlic

½ tsp (2.5 ml) whole fennel seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle

½ tsp (2.5 ml) crushed red pepper flakes

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine

1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream (whipping cream)

2/3 cup (150 ml) half-and-half

2 tbsp (30 ml) tomato paste

1 lb (454 g) dry rigatoni

½ cup (125 ml) chopped parsley leaves

1 cup (250 ml) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided


Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the fennel and onion and sauté for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add the sausage and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, crumbling it with a fork, until nicely browned. Add the garlic, crushed fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, 2 tsp (10 ml) salt and 1 tsp (5 ml) black pepper and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the wine, bring to a boil, and add the heavy cream, half-and-half and tomato paste. Bring back to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 2 tbsp (30 ml) salt and cook the rigatoni according to the directions on the package. Drain and add to the sauce, stirring to coat the pasta. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes to allow the pasta to absorb the sauce. Off the heat, stir in the parsley and ½ cup (125 ml) of the Parmesan. Press into a large shallow baking dish, sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and serve. To make ahead, refrigerate for up to a day and then bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees F (190 C).

From Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten