Tortellini with Italian Sausage, Fennel and Mushroom

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I debated awhile about this one. Although I feel the pasta dish is right up there with the greats, I started to ponder just how much emphasis should go into the visual aspect of each new recipe as I’m adamant about choosing only the very best to post. …Then the old lesson auto-popped into my head…one that it seems most of us still need reminded of from time to time, which is…don’t judge a book by its cover. I know. That applies more to people than food, but… because I reaaally wanted to share this superb recipe with you deserving people, I decided that I’d stop my pondering right then and there and let that be my guide. So though it may not be the most attractive dish in the world, it’s a winner in every way. The combination of flavors is one that always seems to work phenomenally well. Like a great sports team or the collaboration of a fine orchestra, the dish wouldn’t be the same if you removed any one of its players. And believe me… you’ll want a front row seat to this one. Okay, okay…I’ll stop! Just give it a try… you’ll be glad you did.

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I use a mortar and pestle to coarsely grind my fennel seeds, but if you don’t have one, not to worry…  Throw the seeds in a heavy duty ziploc or resealable plastic bag and take a meat mallet or a heavy skillet and pound.

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Cook the sausage, fennel and mushrooms until the sausage is brown and the fennel is almost tender. Meanwhile, be boiling up the tortellini.

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Add garlic and fennel seeds; stir 1 minute. Stir in cream, then 1 cup broth; boil until liquid is reduced and very slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.

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Add sausage mixture to tortellini in pot. Toss over medium heat until blended. Add spinach; toss gently until spinach wilts.

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Stir in 1/2 cup cheese; add more broth by 1/4 cupfuls to moisten if dry.

Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with chopped fennel fronds, and serve, passing additional cheese.

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Tortellini with Italian Sausage, Fennel, and Mushroom

(Adapted from Bon appétit  December 2010)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large fennel bulb, trimmed, halved through core, thinly sliced lengthwise (about 3 cups), fronds chopped

1 pound spicy Italian sausages, casings removed, sausage coarsely crumbled

1 8-ounce package sliced fresh crimini (baby bella) mushrooms

4 large garlic cloves, pressed

1 tablespoon fennel seeds, coarsely crushed

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1 cup (or more) chicken broth

1 16-ounce package dried tortellini with pesto filling or fresh tortellini with 3-cheese filling  (I always use fresh cheese tortellini ~Julie)

1 5-ounce package fresh baby spinach leaves

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese plus additional (for serving)

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced fennel bulb, sausage, and mushrooms; sauté until sausage is brown and cooked through and fennel is almost tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Add garlic and fennel seeds; stir 1 minute. Stir in cream, then 1 cup broth; boil until liquid is reduced and very slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook tortellini in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain tortellini; return to same pot.

Add sausage mixture to tortellini in pot. Toss over medium heat until blended. Add spinach; toss gently until spinach wilts. Stir in 1/2 cup cheese; add more broth by 1/4 cupfuls to moisten if dry. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with chopped fennel fronds, and serve, passing additional cheese.

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8 thoughts on “Tortellini with Italian Sausage, Fennel and Mushroom

  1. Oh great, Tammy…I’m so glad you tried it! It’s one of our absolute favorites. Thanks for the kind words and we miss you all, too. Thanks for following and hopefully you’ll be able to enjoy some of the others as well!

  2. julie i tried this last night we loved it the taste was so good like you could not get enough of it easy to make well i had to figure out what fennel was but after that i was good to go . I got to say i am enjoying this site very much and i do miss you all and the smell of you cooking you are one of the best . thanks for sharing with us

  3. I totally agree with you on the issue of ‘judging a book by the cover”, there are many fast food restaurants with beautiful photos but when the food finally lands on the plate, you get a shocking-is-this -the-same-thing-posted-on-the-wall-kind of look. Food should never be judged by the looks, I mostly judge by ingredients, not by looks, but like you I am adamant on posting the best! Thanks for stopping by my favourite pastime.

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