David's Favorite Recipes

Barbara South’s Pappardelle With Fennel, Sausage & Ricotta


I always love being invited to dinner at the home of my friends Hank and Barbara South in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. They both love to cook and make a great team. When I told Barbara about this cookbook, she surprised me one evening with this incredible pasta dish, which she adapted from a Williams-Sonoma recipe, adding her own special touches.


1 (16-ounce) bag or box dried pappardelle pasta
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound Italian sweet sausage, casings removed
1 fennel bulb, cored and cut into thin julienne strips
½ cup dry white wine
¼ cup diced shallots
¼ cup chopped garlic
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 cup The Essential Homemade Chicken Stock (page 26), or good-quality canned chicken stock or broth 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup fresh reduced-fat ricotta
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Break the sausage into small pieces and add to the pan along with the fennel. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the meat is lightly browned 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the wine, shallots, garlic, and thyme, and cook until the wine has reduced by half, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth and butter and cook until the mixture has reduced by about three-quarters.

While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. As soon as the sauce is ready, add the pasta to the boiling water. Cook until al dente, tender but still slightly chewy, and ladle out and reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water.

Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce in the pan along with the reserved pasta water. Turn the pasta in the sauce, which will coat it in about 30 seconds. Transfer the pasta dish to a serving platter, top with dollops of the ricotta, and sprinkle with parsley. Toss to combine.  Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve immediately.