When winter isn’t quite ready to shed its coat and enter spring, hearty, simple, stick-to-the-ribs meals are best. There’s barely anything at the farmer’s market, so we turn to our pantries instead. What I love about this recipe is that if you already have a fennel sausage that you love, just use that instead.

Then, this recipe will take only 20 minutes of cooking, tops.

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I’m of the mind that brown butter improves anything, and when mixed with fragrant sage and fennel, it’s such a satisfying combination. You can also try this recipe with any pasta you like, but I like the texture of the cavatelli best.

Spicy Sausage + Sage Butter Cavatelli (Serves 4)

1 fennel sausage (recipe below)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
15 sage leaves, chopped (you can leave some whole for garnish, if you like)
1/2 cup dry white wine
10 ounces cavatelli pasta
2 ounces grated parmesan, for garnish

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. To make the dish, heat up a large pan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, then add the sausage – careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook the meat balls fully, about 3 minutes a side. Set aside the meatballs on a plate, and return the pan to heat. Add pasta to the boiling water and cook the pasta per manufacturers instructions.

Meanwhile, add the butter to the pan along with the sage leaves and cook the butter while stirring until browned. It should smell nutty. Pour in the white wine, and scrape the pan with a wooden spoon to pick up the brown bits. Return the sausage to the pan, and strain the pasta and add to the pan as well. Toss to coat. Garnish with grated cheese.

Fennel Sausage

1 1/2 pounds ground pork shoulder
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
10 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons rosemary, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
crushed pinch red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper

Combine all of the herbs, garlic, and spices in a bowl, and combine with the pork. Mix together until well combined. Gently roll the pork into 1 inch balls, set aside on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Hold in the fridge until using.

Images via Claire Thomas


  1. This sounds amazing! I agree that browned butter improves everything. 🙂 My family is Italian, and we made our own cavatelli pasta from scratch. It will be nice to have another recipe to use it in besides smothered in red sauce!

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