Pasta with Italian Sausage, Anise and Cherry Tomatoes


For the sausage:
• 1 1/2 pounds ground pork
• Salt and pepper
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 cup dry white wine
• 1 teaspoon Anise seed, chopped or 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed
• 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 1 tablespoon minced onion flakes
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano and thyme leaves
• 1 teaspoon ground sage
• 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
• 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice or cloves
• About 4 tablespoons EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
• 2 baby fennel bulbs, trimmed and very thinly sliced or 1/4 bulb, finely chopped
• 2 spring onions, whites and light greens very thinly sliced or chopped
• 2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
• 2 pints fresh cherry tomatoes, red and/or yellow or 1 1/2 to 2 pounds fresh vine tomatoes, chopped
• A handful of basil, torn
• 1 pound penne or other short-cut pasta
• Grated Pecorino-Romano cheese


Place pork in a bowl and season liberally with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine baking soda and wine then add to pork along with anise or fennel seed, finely chopped garlic, onion flakes, oregano and thyme, sage, red pepper flakes and allspice or cloves. Combine and chill 1 hour to overnight.
Bring 6 quarts water to a boil and liberally salt it for the pasta.
Heat a couple tablespoons EVOO in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and brown and crumble; remove to a bowl. Add more EVOO to pan, 2 turns, then add fennel, onions and garlic. Stir 2-3 minutes then add tomatoes, salt and basil. Cover pan and cook 8-10 minutes, shaking pan occasionally.
Cook pasta to al dente. Reserve half a mug of starchy cooking water before draining. Add sausage back to sauce along with the pasta and cooking water, and toss to combine. Finish with an extra drizzle of EVOO and a couple handfuls of cheese. Serve pasta in shallow bowls with extra cheese at the table.
Serves 4

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