I made this delicious linguini in a creamy roasted onion & fennel sauce with pork meatballs to pair with the De Wetshof Finesse Chardonnay. It’s the kind of dish that feels like you’re giving your body a hug from the inside and will be perfect for the coming winter months.
Onions take a long time to cook; it’s just the way it is. You can shorten the cooking process by using a pressure cooker or pre-steaming them to soften the texture and flavour (do this for about 15 minutes), but I’m happy to let them languish in an oven with olive oil until their best side is eeked out. I like that while they are slowly roasting away to deliciousness for an hour, I can get on with making the sauce and meatballs.
The sauce is a basic béchamel made with a splash of wine (I use the De Wetshof Finesse Chardonnay, of course!). I added a good dose of creamy Gorgonzola and grated Parmiggiano Reggiano – both being the kings of cheese in my opinion. They give the sauce so much flavour and creaminess. The roasted onions and fennel get added to the sauce to carry on cooking for a while and integrate their flavours before being tossed through perfectly al dante tagliatelle. Linguini or spaghetti would work just as well.
I adore a good pork sausage, so instead of mixing up all the seasonings to make pork meatballs from scratch, I take the meat out the sausage casings and roll them into small balls. You should get around 4 – 5 per sausage depending on how big they are, and they are so much easier to cook when they are this size.
The De Wetshof Finesse Chardonnay 2017 (right) is the estate’s lightly wooded Chardonnay in the range and, like all the others, is an excellent food wine. The citrus notes stand up well against the creaminess of this dish. The wine is also named ‘Lesca’ after Danie de Wet’s wife. It has the potential to mature for 3 – 5 years – although I find it very quaffable now. This is an easy-drinking wine and perfect for anything, from a braai to a fancy dinner.
- 3 brown onions, peeled, halved and cut into 2 mm slices
- 1 large fennel bulb sliced into 2mm slices (whites part only)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 30gms butter
- 4 level Tbsp flour
- About 500ml milk (full cream)
- ¼ cup Dewetshof Estate Finesse Chardonnay
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 70 – 80gms Gorgonzola cheese
- 40gms grated Parmesan
- 1 Tbsp Italian parsley, finely chopped
- 400gms Tagliatelle or linguini
- 6 pork sausages – aprox 250gms, meat removed from casing to make 4 -5 meatballs per sausage
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C / 350F and put the onions and fennel in a medium sized dish. Add the olive oil, season well with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast for 1 hour, stirring the onions about 3 times during the hour.
- While the onions are roasting, make the white sauce by melting the butter in a small pot. Add the flour and stir to form roux (paste). Add the wine and the milk in parts until you have a white sauce. Add the Dijon, salt, pepper & nutmeg and let this cook until it cannot thicken any further over a low flame. Add the Gorgonzola and about half the Parmesan and allow this to melt in. You can take this off the heat if there is still some time left for the onions.
- Get the water on the boil for the pasta and make the meatballs.
- Cook the pasta until al dente and reserve about ¼ cup of the cooking liquid.
- Fry the meatballs in a non-stick pan to which you have added splash of olive oil. Toss them around to ensure even cooking. Once this is cooked remove from the heat and set aside. You want to be cooking the pasta and making the meatballs at the same time to ensure that everything finishes cooking simultaneously.
- Once the onions have roasted, toss them into the white sauce on the stove and allow this to bubble for about 5 minutes over a low flame. Add some of the pasta water to thin the sauce down a bit (1/4 – ½ a cup). Adjust seasoning and add the parsley. You can also add a little more milk if necessary.
- Toss the sauce over the pasta and serve immediately with the meatballs on top and the rest of the grated Parmesan.