Caramelized Fennel Paccheri with Sausage & Pistachios

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paccheri tossed in a white wine butter sauce with italian sausage, caramelized onions & fennel, lots of garlic, wilted spinach, grated pecorino cheese, fresh herbs, and buttery pistachios over top

servings: 4


  • 3 tbsp butter
  • ½ cup chopped roasted, salted pistachios
  • olive oil, as needed
  • ½ lb raw, mild italian sausage
  • ¾ lb paccheri
  • kosher salt
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large fennel bulb, cored + thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup white wine
  • ¼ lb fresh spinach
  • ¾ cup grated pecorino cheese, plus more for topping
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and let it melt. Add the chopped pistachios. Toast for a minute or so until fragrant. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  3. Heat a large Dutch oven (or heavy-bottomed pot) over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. When the oil is hot, add the sausage. Use a wooden spoon to break it into smaller pieces as it begins to brown. Cook for 5-6 minutes until browned and cooked through, stirring often.
  4. Transfer the sausage to a plate. Add the red onion, fennel, and a pinch of salt to the pot. Cook for 10 minutes or so until caramelized and tender. Meanwhile, drop the paccheri in the water and cook for 2 minutes less than the package’s instructions, stirring often.
  5. Stir the garlic and crushed red pepper into the vegetables. Cook for another 30 seconds. Pour in the white wine. Retrieve a ½ cup of starchy pasta water from the pasta pot and add it in with the wine. Let the liquid come to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 3-4 minutes until slightly thickened. When the pasta is done cooking, drain it and add it to the pot. Stir well to coat and continue to cook for a minute or so.
  6. Stir in the spinach, sausage, and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Let heat through. Gradually stir in the pecorino cheese until it melts into the sauce. Lastly, fold in the basil and parsley.
  7. Taste the pasta and season with more salt if needed. Pour the pasta and all of the sauce into a large serving bowl. Garnish with the pistachios, more pecorino cheese, and any extra fresh herbs.