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Caramelized Fennel Paccheri with Sausage & Pistachios

Caramelized Fennel Paccheri

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. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter. Let melt. Add the chopped pistachios. Toast for a few minutes until fragrant. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  2. 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. Stir often until the sausage is caramelized and cooked through. 
  3. Meanwhile, add the paccheri to a large pot of salted, boiling water and cook for 3 minutes less than the package’s instructions.
  4. Transfer the sausage to a plate. Add the red onion and fennel to the pot. Saute for 6 minutes or so until caramelized and tender. Season with a pinch of salt. Stir in the garlic and crushed red pepper. Cook for another 30 seconds. 
  5. 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.


I always like to save extra pasta water (more than the ½ cup) before draining the pasta. If the sauce thickens too much, you can use this water to loosen it back up.