Hearty Pasta: Whole Wheat Fettuccine with Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

I’ll admit it. I’m not a huge lover of whole wheat pasta. I’m not really convinced that it offers a big enough health benefit to make it worth switching over completely. But I found myself craving hearty whole wheat pasta the other day, so I went with it, making a hearty sauce that stood up to the nutty taste of whole-wheat fettuccine.

This is not a traditional peppers-and-onions preparation, but more like a stew with softened grape tomatoes, caramelized onions, sweet fennel, and some spicy Italian sausage. It was inspired by the silky peppers-and-sausage served over polenta at one of our favorite local restaurants, Frankies Spuntino. Fennel fronds and fresh basil brighten it up at the end. The preparation is easy enough for a work night; while the sauce simmers you can make a salad (or, um, finally put away the laundry that’s been sitting around for several days.)

Tossing the pasta in the sauce and letting it mingle and absorb a little before serving is an essential step. I think finishing the pasta this way may be especially important with whole-wheat pasta, which has a stronger flavor of its own. If you make extra sauce, consider freezing it separately before you add the pasta.

Whole Wheat Fettuccine with Sausage, Peppers, and Onions
Serves 2 plus leftovers

Splash olive oil
2 small yellow onions
1 bulb fennel
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp fennel seed
2 links hot sausage, casing removed
2 tsp tomato paste
1 red pepper and 1 orange pepper, or two red peppers, in 1″ chunks
1 small box grape tomatoes
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup water
1/2 lb whole wheat fettuccine
basil and parmesan for serving

Chop onion and fennel small, reserving fronds for garnish, then cook in a large dutch oven over low heat with olive oil until just beginning to color. Take your time. Chop garlic roughly and add to pot along with fennel seed. Add sausage without casing and break up, add tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until sausage is no longer pink. Add peppers, tomatoes, and 1/4 cup water and stir to scrape up cooked bits. Simmer on low 20 minutes, then taste for salt.
Meanwhile, bring pasta water to a boil. Cook fettuccine until quite al dente. Drain and add the pasta to sauce, tossing to coat well and letting it absorb the sauce a little. Serve pasta and sauce garnished with torn basil and fennel fronds. Grate parmesan over the top and add salt and pepper to taste.

In pasta, peppers, tomatoes

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