Italian sausage orzo & fennel

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A platter of Italin sausage and orzo pasta with fennel

This Italian sausage orzo and fennel is a deliciously rustic pasta dish. The pan-fried Italian sausage meatballs are added to a rich tomato sauce with garlic, wine, fennel, sage & rosemary. Hearty winter comfort food at its best.

Proper Italian sausages that flavoured with fennel and have a dense texture are what you are looking for here. If you are in a push, you can use good-quality pork sausages.

Italian sausage and other ingredients on a board

Raw ingredients to make and Italian sausage orzo pasta dish

I developed this recipe for Haute Cabrière and their unwooded Pinot Noir, an unpretentious wine with an accessible price point that I drink often. I’m currently testing (and rating) as many South African Pinot Noirs in the lower price range and so far this is my favourite. 

Orzo, also known as risoni or rosmarino is a short pasta that looks like a large grain of rice. Once cooked and added to sauce it has an irresistible silky texture. In traditional Italian cooking, orzo is often added to soups or broths and works really well in salads too

Orzo pasta cooked in tomato sauce with Italian sausages

I’ve made a pngratatto to top this orzo pasta along with freshly grated Parmesan. I love the crunchy texture it gives here along with another hit of flavour. An entirely optional element but recommended.

Bowls of dished up orzo pasta with Italian sausages


Italian sausage orzo & fennel

A tomato based orzo pasta dish with Italian sausages and fennel.

  • Author: Sam Linsell
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 35
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 4
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stove-top braise & boil
  • Cuisine: Italian



Approx. 500 – 600gm Italian pork sausages with fennel

A splash of olive oil

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 large red onion, chopped

1 small fennel bulb sliced and chopped (the white part)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Pinch of crushed chilli flakes (optional or add more if you like it spicy)

1 Tbsp tomato paste

½ cup dry white wine

2 x 410gms tins of Italian tomatoes

A sprig of rosemary finely chopped

A small bunch of parsley chopped (divided)

6 sage leaves

4 small thyme stalks, leaves stripped

350gms Orzo pasta

Grated Parmesan to serve

Pangratatto (optional):

3 Tbsp olive oil

½ cup panko crumbs

Zest from ¾ of a lemon

1 clove of garlic, crushed (optional)


Heat a large non-stick skillet and add a splash of olive oil.

Remove the sausage from the casings and cut it into small bite-size pieces and roughly roll these into meatballs. You do not want them to be perfect here and can even be left as chunks. Fry these in the pan until golden on all sides then remove and set aside.

Using the same pan with sausage oils, fry the fennel seeds for about 30 seconds until fragrant, then add the onion and fennel. Fry for around 4- 5 minutes until softened. If they stick add a splash of water or more olive oil. Add the garlic and chilli flakes and cook for 30 seconds (do not allow this to burn). Add the tomato paste and cook for a further 30 seconds.

Deglaze the pan with the white wine and cook until it has evapourated. Rinse the tomato tins with about half a tin of water and add that to the pan too. Add all the herbs, reserving some of the chopped parsley for the pangratatto and garnish. Allow this sauce to bubble for about 20 minutes.

Cook the orzo pasta according to the pack in instructions (about 8 minutes) and then add it to the tomato sauce along with about a third of a cup of the cooking liquid. Add the cooked sausages and cook for a few minutes until heated through. Adjust seasoning and add salt and black pepper (check the sausage first as they can be quite salty).

While the sauce is cooking, make your pangratatto. Heat the olive oil in a small pan and add all the other ingredients. Stirring constantly cook until golden brown and crispy.

Serve the pasta immediately with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and pangratatto or chopped parsley.

Keywords: Orzo, pasta, Italian sausage, meatballs, tomato, fennel, recipe, rustic

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Orzo salad with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and pesto

Rosmarino pasta with roasted tomatoes, feta & olives

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  1. This is just beautiful. I need to think about using orzo more often. I don’t know why it doesn’t come to mind. Maybe because I love fun pasta shapes… Great dish and I’ll be making it when the weather cools down.

  2. Thanks, Mimi, I think maybe because it’s more like rice in a way. Orzo is so good in salads too

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