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Tomato, Fennel, and Italian Sausage Sauce for Pasta or Polenta

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 - 1 1/2 lbs Italian Sausage links (hot or mild)

1 cup finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 cup finely chopped fennel stalk

1 teaspoon fennel seed

2 cans (each 28 oz) whole peeled tomatoes, pureed, or 7-8 cups peeled, chopped, fresh tomatoes.

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine

pinch sugar

red pepper flakes

salt and pepper

1-2 tablespoons minced fennel leaves (optional)

freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium flame.  Add Italian sausage links and brown on all sides.  Drain on paper towels.  Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add onion, garlic, chopped fennel stalk, and fennel seed.  Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are tender.  Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, sugar, and a pinch or two of red pepper flakes.  Bring to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally 20-30 minutes.  Slice sausages into rounds and add to sauce.  Continue to simmer 30 or more minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Stir in minced fennel leaves just before serving, if desired.  Toss with hot, cooked pasta (use a short, thick type like penne) or serve over hot polenta, with Parmesan Cheese.  Makes 8-10 servings.

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