Thursday, May 17, 2018

Orzo Pasta with Fennel Sausage, Shishito Peppers, Tomatoes, Broccolini & Parmesan

On one of those not-so-rare nights I felt compelled to binge-watch food programs on the telly, my taste buds were suddenly catapulted to drool mode by a dish called Pasta Sugo whilst watching an episode of Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Pasta Sugo, enthusiastically endorsed by executive chef Beau MacMillan, alum of Next Iron Chef All Star and Worst Cooks In America (no, he wasn't one of the worst cooks but rather a co-host along with Anne Burrell), hails from an Italian restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona called Tratto. I wasn't able to jot down all the ingredients, but shishito peppers and fresh fennel pork sausage stood out. Taking those two ingredients as inspiration, I came up with this recipe using orzo pasta instead of fresh cavatelli, shishito peppers, and my own version of a simple homemade fennel pork sausage. Then I went a tad off the reservation and added tomatoes and broccolini. Here's an example of using what you have in your frig, cuz you might just come up with something that's, well, pretty effin' good!

Fennel Sausage:
1 lb. ground pork or turkey (do not use lean)
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. toasted fennel seeds 
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. red wine
1 scallion, minced

1. Toast the fennel seeds: place a small saute pan over medium heat (do not add any oil) and add the fennel seeds. Stir frequently for about 30 seconds or until the seeds are fragrant; do not let brown. Remove immediately from the heat. 

2. Add all the ingredients including the toasted fennel seeds together with the ground pork or turkey and stir to combine well (I use disposable poly gloves on my hands to blend the mixture). 

3. Shape the meat mixture into 1"-2" balls and set aside on a foil or parchment-lined plate or tray. If not using right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.


1 lb. orzo pasta

2 tbsp. Olive oil

4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 dozen shishito peppers, seeded and sliced into thin rounds
1 bunch broccolini, rinsed and cut into 2" sections
5-6 vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped or 3 boxes cherry tomatoes, each cut in half
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tub Knorr concentrated chicken stock or 2 tsp. chicken bullion 
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Knob of butter (about 2 tsp.)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan

Shaved Parmesan

1. Cook the orzo according to package instructions until just al dente; drain and set aside.

2. Add 1-2 tbsp. olive oil to a large saute pan. Heat over medium high heat and add the sausage balls in a single layer. Saute the meatballs, turning over occasionally with tongs, until lightly browned on all sides, about 5-6 minutes.

3. Add the minced garlic and toss briefly. Add the sliced shishitos and broccolini. Stir-fry for a few minutes, then add the Knorr concentrated chicken stock tub or bullion, white wine and water to deglaze. 

4. Add the red pepper flakes, tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste; bring to a boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. 

5. Add the cooked orzo to the mixture and simmer for a couple minutes or until the sauce has infused the pasta. Stir in the knob of butter and 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan. Stir until the butter and cheese have melted. 

6. Turn off the heat and serve the pasta in serving bowls. Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese. 

Toast the fennel seed in a dry pan.

For the sausage: garlic powder, red wine, ground cumin, sugar, 
kosher salt,dried parsley, fennel seed and black pepper. 

 Fennel sausage.

These are cherry tomatoes, each sliced in half, along with sliced shishito peppers and minced garlic.

You can also use vine ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped, here with sliced 
shishito peppers, broccolini, scallions and garlic. 


 Brown the sausage meatballs in olive oil, then stir in the minced garlic. 

 Add the shishito peppers and broccolini to the meatballs and stir-fry 3-4 minutes.

 Knorr concentrated chicken stock tubs are readily available in most markets.

 Add one Knorr concentrated chicken stock tub, white wine and water to the meatballs, shishito pepper and broccolini mixture and deglaze.

Add the red pepper flakes, tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste. 
Bring to a boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes.  

Stir in the orzo pasta, knob of butter and shredded parmesan.

Plate and serve with shaved Parmesan.


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