Chicken Ragu with Fennel

Aired May 29, 2014

2 to 4 tablespoons EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed (about 1/2 palmful)
1 1/4 pounds ground chicken
1/2 small bulb fennel, finely chopped, plus a few tablespoons chopped fronds for garnish
1 rib celery, finely chopped, plus a few tablespoons chopped leaves for garnish
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup whole milk or half-and-half
1 rind from Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 pound egg tagliatelle or fettuccine
1/2 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
In a large, deep skillet, heat the EVOO over medium-high. Stir in the fennel seed. Add the chicken and cook until brown and crumbly, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped fennel, celery, onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Partially cover the pan and cook over medium heat until the vegetables soften, 8-10 minutes. Add the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and half-and-half. Reduce the heat to medium-low, drop in the cheese rind and simmer the ragu for 20-30 minutes.   
Salt the boiling water then cook the pasta to al dente. Drain, reserving half a mug of cooking water. Stir the cooking water into the ragu then toss the pasta with the ragu and the cheese; season to taste. Remove the cheese rind and serve garnished with the chopped fennel fronds and celery leaves. Serve with more cheese at the table.
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