St Croix Farm of Valley Falls has a simple but wise philosophy, “know your farmer, know your food.”
Each year St. Croix Farm in Valley Falls has an open house and I attended the event for a day full of fun, learning, and tasting. The Moore family is the third generation to operate the farm, raising a variety of animals such as beef, chicken, and rabbits.
I picked up hot sausage to make Rigatoni with fennel and sausage.
Arriving at the farm, you are welcomed by John Moore, who is the kind of person, who after meeting once, you feel as if you’ve known him all your life. He is warm and friendly with a good dose of humor.
In a wagon pulled by a tractor, I rode out to the pasture to meet the cattle, rabbits and chickens. The first thing I learned is that John is a master when it comes to grass. He explained why the grass is key to maintaining a healthy sustainable environment for his animals. The Moores believe that raising the animals in the open air, under the sun is important for the pasture and the cattle. One note on the pasture grass, it is long, high enough to lose a small child. The kids had a blast and I admit it was fun walking through all that high grass.
St. Croix Farm’s animals are pasture raised without hormones or antibiotics. I always hear that pasture raised, grass fed meat tastes different and you have to get used to it. I don’t know where that comes from, because I think it’s simply better. And I don’t need to get used to better.
St. Croix is a Community Supported Agriculture or CSA farm. As with vegetable CSAs, you purchase a share that you pick up at the farm. Learn more on their website, St. Croix Farm.
I picked up sweet and hot sausage from the farm because I had my eye on this recipe. My son took the sweet sausage, leaving me with hot. The hot sausage was a perfect addition to the dish. The recipe from Ina Garten has fennel, Italian sausage, wine, cream, a little tomato paste with rigatoni.
The recipe calls for ground sweet Italian sausage; I used hot sausages links from the farm. I cut the links into small pieces and removed the casing from one link, crumbling it up while browning. I like the look of small meatballs. Since I used hot sausage, I omitted the red pepper flakes.
Heat olive oil in a pot. Add chopped fennel, onions and sauté until tender. Brown the sausage with the fennel. Add garlic and continue to cook. Pour in wine and bring to boil. Add heavy cream, half and half and tomato paste. Bring to boil again and simmer. Sauce will thicken. Cook rigatoni and add to sauce. Finally, add the parsley and parmesan cheese.
Enjoy and pay a visit to St. Croix Farm for local pasture raised, grass fed meat.
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cups chopped fennel, 1 large bulb
- 1½ cups chopped yellow onion
- 1¼ pounds sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
- ½ teaspoons whole fennel seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ⅔ cup half and half
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 pound rigatoni
- ½ cup chopped parsley leaves
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the fennel and onions and saute for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add the sausage and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, crumbling it with a fork, until nicely browned. Add the garlic, crushed fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoons black pepper and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the wine, bring to a boil, and add the heavy cream, half and half, and tomato paste. Bring back to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 2 Tablespoons salt and cook the rigatoni according to the directions on the package. Drain and add to the sauce, stirring to coat the pasta. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes to allow the pasta to absorb the sauce. Off the heat, stir in the parsley and ½ cup of Parmesan. Serve hot and top with remaining Parmesan cheese.
option: dice links and remove casing from one to crumble