Ina’s Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel

Shout out to my chef crush, Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa)!  Yesterday was her 70th birthday and in her honor I am sharing one of my favorite all time pasta dishes… Ina’s own rigatoni with sausage and fennel.  Feed your peeps this dish and they will love you for it!!


  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups chopped fennel (1 large bulb)
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 1/4 lbs sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 tsp minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 1/2 tsp whole fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup half and half
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 lb rigatoni
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese


  1. In a large dutch oven, sauté fennel and onion in olive oil over medium heat until they soften.
  2. Add sausage, crumble with a fork, cook until browned.
  3. Add garlic, crushed fennel seeds and red pepper flakes, 2 tsp kosher salt and 1 tsp black pepper.  Stir to incorporate and let cook 3 more minutes.
  4. Pour in the wine and bring mixture to a boil.  Add the heavy cream, half and half and tomato paste.  Bring back to a boil then lower heat.  Simmer until sauce has thickened (20 minutes).
  5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil with 2 tbsp of salt and cook the rigatoni according to package directions.
  6. Drain pasta and add it to the sauce.  Cook over low heat for 5 minutes so pasta can absorb some of the sauce.
  7. Off the heat, stir in the fresh parsley and parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately!


This dish is legit!  Take care not to overcook the pasta, keeping in mind it will continue to cook some in the sauce.  I’ve always used rigatoni but I’d venture to say any similar tube shaped pasta would work.  I’ve also tried lightening this dish up by using chicken sausage versus pork, as well as using whole milk and 2% milk instead of heavy cream and half and half.  The taste does change slightly as does the consistency of the dish, but it’s still super flavorful and delicious!!!  Make sure you have extra parmesan on hand as well as red pepper flake if you’re looking for an added kick.  Mangia Bene!

*Adapted from Cooking for Jeffrey, by Ina Garten

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