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Sardinian Pasta Shells with Sausage, Tomato & Fennel Sauce

I had the pleasure of making fresh Sardinian chiusoni pasta with the wonderful Erica and Alessandro from Agriturismo Stazzu Li Paladini in Olbia. Usually called malloreddus or gnocchetti sardi, they are small conch-shaped pasta shells that are ridged on one side so they can hold onto lots of sauce. If you can’t find any, then a small pasta like orecchiette or cavatelli works well. This is a typical Sardinian dish made with sausage, fennel and plenty of pecorino.

Found in this book

Ainsley's Mediterranean Cookbook


Heat the oil in a sauté pan or deep frying pan over a medium heat, add the onion and cook for 4–6 minutes until softened but not coloured. Stir in the garlic, fennel seeds and rosemary and cook until fragrant, then remove from the pan to a bowl and set aside.

Add the sausagemeat to the pan and fry until it begins to brown, using a wooden spoon to stir and break down the meat. Cook for 3–4 minutes until it begins to go a little crispy round the edges, then return the onion mixture to the pan. Add a splash of white wine and allow to bubble, then stir in the tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions until al dente.

Once cooked, add the pasta to the sauce and gently stir to coat. Season with a little pepper and serve in warmed pasta bowls, topped with grated pecorino and a few fennel fronds.



  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 400g good-quality sausages, skinned and roughly chopped
  • a splash of white wine
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 400g chiusoni, malloreddus or gnocchetti sardi pasta (or similar short pasta)
  • a pinch of black pepper
  • To Serve
  • pecorino cheese, grated
  • fennel fronds