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A Recipe Inspired by Fennel Pollen and Friendship

Pasta with sausage and fennel pollen ragu takes a simple combination of meat, red onion, and tomato puree, and becomes something magical with the addition of an unexpected ingredient.

10:45 AM EDT on October 25, 2023

Pasta with Sausage and Fennel Pollen Ragu. Photo by Mireille Jaccard.

Not surprisingly, I tend to like chefs as people. I'm not talking about the ones who fancy themselves tough guys because they work with knives and can get away with being douchebags. I'm talking about the thoughtful ones who are often incredibly intelligent and have dedicated their lives to feeding people. I also love to watch chefs in action because there is just so much to learn.

I got to watch Gaetano Arnone in action when I visited him, his wife, Meigan, and their Jack Russell Terrier, Radio, at Villa Le Corti, the 14th century estate in Chianti Country where they moved to live and work during the pandemic.

Chef Gaetano Arnone and Appetito's EIC, Andrew Cotto, at Villa Le Corti in Tuscany.

Gaetano loves history, and after a very long tour of the sprawling property and learning more about the original and existing owners, the Corsini family, going through their century's old archives, touring the winery and olive oil making production facilities, it was finally time to get busy in the ancient kitchen where Gaetano gives private cooking classes.

My very private class involved making fettuccine from scratch while sipping some Principe Corsini wines made on the property. Next, we prepared the sugo that I have shared here: A simple combination of sausage, red onion, and tomato puree elevated by the seasoning of fennel pollen. I love fennel and even use fennel fronds as a seasoning, but fennel pollen was a revelation. It is harvested by hand from the blossoms of the fronds, and is, understandably, fairly rare. But it is so good, and I highly encourage you to find some in order to add a nuanced flavor to your savory dishes. Here, it enhances the sausage, onions, and tomatoes with the familiar anise of fennel but also notes of honey and citrus.

Get some fennel pollen and give this recipe a try! You can thank me later, but the real thanks go to Gaetano for having me as a friend, having me to the estate and introducing me to another level of cooking.

Pasta with Sausage and Fennel Pollen Ragu

Pasta with Sausage and Fennel Pollen Ragu

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Recipe by Andrew Cotto


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 1 pound 1 dried pasta of your choice

  • 1 pound 1 plain pork sausage, removed from casing and crumbled

  • 1 can 1 crushed San Marzano tomatoes

  • 1 medium 1 red onion, slivered

  • 1 tablespoon 1 Fennel Pollen (or crushed fennel seeds)

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • Salt


  • For the Pasta
  • Put a large pot of water on to boil.
  • Add a handful of salt to the boiling water.
  • Add your pasta, stir till the boil returns, and set a timer for 2 minutes before al dente.
  • For the Sugo
  • Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.
  • Coat the bottom of the pan with EVOO.
  • When the oil shimmers, add the crumbled sausage.
  • Brown the sausage evenly, turning regularly (five minutes).
  • When the sausage is browned and rendered, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl.
  • Add the red onions to the pan and sauté until translucent (five minutes).
  • Add the crushed tomatoes to the pan and blend with the onions.
  • Season the tomatoes to taste with salt and stir.
  • Allow the sauce to reduce until the bottom of the pan appears when scraping.
  • Add the fennel pollen and stir.
  • Return the sausage to the pan and incorporate (this should be a minute before the pasta timer goes off).
  • Transfer the pasta to the sauté pan and stir all of the ingredients together.
  • Add some pasta water if the sauce is tight.
  • Transfer directly to bowls, swirl with EVOO and sprinkle with a pinch of fennel pollen.
  • Enjoy!

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