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Aired January 24, 2014

#8 Chicken Ragu with Fennel

serves 4-6

    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.