It’s no secret that I love those dear Housewives of New Jersey. When my favorite matriarch of the Manzo family, Caroline, talked about an olive tomato sauce that her family always had on Christmas Eve – I immediately put that on my “to-do” list in the kitchen. Her recipe is top-secret of course, but in the scene it showed her slicing up fennel so I knew that went into the mix. So, I started there and just kind of winged it.
I added some sliced up Italian sausage, two kinds of olives, and fennel – as well as all the other standard tomato sauce fare. The brininess of the olives add such a different twist from a standard tomato sauce. Also, a greater depth of flavor. And, as most pasta dishes go, it didn’t take long to throw together. If you wanted to make this a vegetarian dish, it would be just as delicious without the sausage.
If you’re like me, and find yourself in a rut when it comes to new pasta dishes – give this one a try!
Penne with Sausage & Olive Sauce
1 lb Italian sausage links (I used hot)
1 can black olives, drained and roughly chopped
1 can green olives, drained and roughly chopped
2 (28) oz cans whole tomatoes, lightly crushed with clean hands
1 onion, diced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. penne pasta
fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Add 1 tbsp olive oil to a large, heavy bottomoed saucepan (I used a dutch oven) and place over medium-high heat. Add the sausage links, and brown well on all sides. Don’t worry if they’re not cooked all the way through, they’ll finish cooking in the sauce. Remove from pan to a plate, and set aside.
Add the onion and the fennel, and saute until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional minute. Add in the tomatoes, and olives and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt, I add about 1 tsp.
Slice the sausage into 1-inch pieces and add slices to the sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 40 minutes – stirring occasionally.
Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining. Add the drained pasta to olive sauce, stirring to combine. If it seems dry, add a splash of the pasta water to help loosen up the sauce a bit.
Garnish with chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese before serving.
Source: inspired by The Real Housewives of New Jersey’s Caroline Manzo