Half the work is already done because the base is pork and fennel sausages, preferably purchased from a good Italian butcher. They’re already cured and seasoned so you’re getting instant flavour into the braise.
Serve this beautiful ragu with any pasta: gnocchi or pappardelle are my favourites. This recipe can also be the start of a spectacular lasagne, as I discovered one desperate Sunday: add two extra tins of tomatoes and layer the ragu with pasta sheets and béchamel. Delicious!
Remove the skins from the sausages and crumble the meat. Discard the skins. Heat a heavy-based pot on medium heat, then add the sausage meat and pancetta. Fry until the sausage meat is golden brown, stirring every few minutes. Don’t worry if you get some sticky, crunchy bits – it’s all flavour.
Add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, bay leaves, dried chilli and fennel seeds. Stir in well. The vegetables will sweat a little and ease all the crusty, caramelised pieces from the bottom of the pot.
Continue to cook gently for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the vegetables are soft and slightly caramelised. Add the tomato paste and red wine and bring to a simmer. Add the stock, tinned tomatoes, rosemary and oregano and continue to simmer for about 45 minutes on low heat, until you have a thick, intense sauce consistency.
Cook the pasta according to packet instructions.
When cooked, season the ragu carefully (the sausages will already be salted), then add the olive oil and the cooked pasta. Bring the pot to the table.