Sweet Sausage, Pancetta, and Fennel Pasta

I wanted something different for a change, and I wanted to finally try out cooking with fennel. On top of those two things, with Oliver still being sick and taking some medicine that’s pretty harsh on his stomach, I needed to make something that he would eat a lot of. It seems like a pretty tall order right? I think I forgot to mention that Bo hates anything that isn’t “normal”. That included the fennel, pancetta, and the leeks in this recipe. Help me.

Guess what though? Not only did I like it, but Oliver absolutely loved it and ate a ton of it. And Bo? Bo couldn’t find a bad thing to say (and cleaned off his entire plate). Needless to say, this was a major success and sure to be in rotation now.

Alright, here’s the cast of characters: pasta, sweet Italian sausage with the casings removed, diced pancetta, leeks, fennel, parsley, tarragon, salt, pepper, olive oil, white wine, chicken stock, and sherry vinegar. I forgot to mention the pecorino romano cheese, I can not believe I forgot the cheese. I’m so sorry about that pecorino romano, it’ll never happen again.


Prep and slice your leeks and fennel thinly. If you haven’t done this before, you can find instructions for prepping leeks here, and for prepping fennel here.


Get a large pot of water boiling. In a second large pot, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Add the fennel, leeks, and some salt and pepper.


Cook for about 5 minutes, until it begins to soften.


When the fennel and leeks are nice and soft, add the white wine and cook until reduced by half.


Add the chicken stock, cover with a lid, and simmer over low heat. Get your pasta cooking in the boiling water.


In a large skillet, start cooking the Italian sausage over medium-high heat.


It’s very hard to focus on cooking dinner when you have this adorableness going on in the other room.


As the sausage is cooking start breaking it up into smaller pieces.


Add the pancetta. This right here is what I call the guarantee that this is going to be one good meal.


While the meat’s cooking, roughly chop up the parsley and tarragon.


Continue cooking until the pancetta is nice and crispy, and the sausage is cooked through and broken up into pieces only slightly large than the pacetta. Toss in a splash of the sherry vinegar.


Add the fennel mixture to the sausage mixture and cook for a minute or two to blend the flavors.


See… this is looking really good already. I could just scoop this up with a spoon. I actually may have just scooped this up with a spoon.


Toss in some of the chopped parsley, tarragon, and freshly grated pecorino romano cheese.


Add the pasta (always reserve some of the pasta water before you drain it), some salt and pepper, and a little drizzle of olive oil, then stir it all up. If it’s a little dry, add a bit of the reserved pasta water.


A little closer? If I must…


Throw it in a big, family style dish and top with some more freshly grated cheese and a bit of the parsley and tarragon. So, so delicious!

Here’s your printable:

Sweet Sausage, Pancetta, and Fennel Pasta

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Sweet Sausage, Pancetta, and Fennel Pasta


  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • salt
  • pepper
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausages, casings removed (about 5)
  • 1 cup diced pancetta (about ½" cubes)
  • splash of sherry vinegar
  • 1 lb dried fusilli pasta
  • 1 tbsp roughly chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese


  1. Get a large pot of salted water boiling. In a second large pot heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the leeks and fennel, along with a bit of salt and pepper. Cook until softened, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock, cover with a lid, and reduce to a low simmer.
  3. Add the pasta to the boiling water.
  4. In a large skillet, start cooking the sausage, breaking up into smaller pieces. When the sausage just starts to brown add in the pancetta. Cook until the pancetta is nice and crispy, and the sausage is browned, cooked through, and broken up into pieces just a bit large than the pancetta. Use a paper towel to soak up and excess fat, then add a splash of sherry vinegar.
  5. Add the fennel mixture to the sausage mixture, along with any remaining liquid from the pot. Stir together for 1 minute to blend the flavors.
  6. Stir 1½ tbsp of the parsley, ¾ tbsp of the tarragon, and half of the grated cheese.
  7. Reserve ½ cup of pasta liquid, then drain the pasta and add it to the sausage mixture. Give it a toss, and if the pasta seems dry add a bit of the reserved liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste, a drizzle of olive oil, remaining parsley and tarragon, and top with the remaining grated cheese.


  1. Donna C says

    Came across this page on a recipe search. Had everything in it I wanted (sausage, leek and fennel to use some bits in the fridge) It is delicious!! Will definitely be making this again, and even more satisfying is the fact that my fussy 6 yr old is on her second bowl!!


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