¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4-6 garlic cloves, minced and pressed in garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
½ t red pepper flakes
8 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 medium fennel bulb halved, cored and sliced thin
½ cup pine nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves (chop these just before adding to skillet)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 pound whole wheat pasta: penne or similar type
1 ounce grated pecorino-romano cheese
Heat up pasta pot with water and 1 Tablespoon salt to a rolling boil. Once boiling, add pasta and cook according to package directions to al dente. When done, reserve ¾ cup pasta water and drain pasta. Return pasta to pot.
Heat sausage in a 12 inch non-stick skillet over medium high heat; cook stirring and breaking up the sausage into ½ inch pieces until crisp and browned. Transfer the sausage to a paper-towel lined plate, leaving fat in skillet and adding fennel, keeping medium-high heat and sautéing for 5 minutes or until tender.
Push fennel to outside of pan and add the olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt to taste. Sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Mix in fennel and cook another minute. Remove from heat and add sausage, pine nuts, basil and lemon juice.
Add sauce and reserved cooking water to pasta and toss to coat. Season with salt to taste, transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with cheese. Serve with a fresh green salad and crusty French bread. Our Sangiovese or Merlot would go very well with this dish.