I grew up with my mother’s favorite stuffing, which is really “potato filling.” I never really liked it, and much preferred my grandmother’s Pepperidge Farm stuffing—even though she would put dried apricots in it. But I never liked either stuffing enough to bother getting the recipe. Then I met my husband, and tasted his mother’s Italian sausage stuffing, and I knew I could never live without the recipe in my grubby little hands.
She actually still cooks the stuffing inside the turkey, which makes it a gooey, yummiful, gastronomical delight further augmented by gravy. Of course, modern food sanitation guidelines recommend that we don’t actually stuff stuffing into the turkey—the stuffing may not get hot enough to kill off bacteria that cause foodborne illness. So I make it in a separate pan. (Once I did try to stuff it, but the cavity of my organic turkey was so small, I couldn’t fit it all in). Cooking the stuffing on the side requires more liquid broth, but also makes a nice crispy top that adds some crunch to this hot, spicy, Italian sausage-infused casserole of carbs. My future son-in-law ate it at my house last Thanksgiving. I think it might have played a small role in his long-term commitment to my daughter.
Here’s the recipe—I dare you to beat it!
Mrs. Cinquino’s Italian Sausage Stuffing
1 Large bag of cubed bread crumbs (about 8 – 12 cups), preferably white. But you can also use organic whole wheat ones, or make your own.
1 onion, chopped
1 whole celery, chopped (raw fennel is good too!)
3 Tablespoons poultry seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste (extra pepper is good)
1 pound hot Italian sausage, raw
½ stick of butter
1 cup milk (or more as needed)
1 cup chicken broth (or more as needed)
1: Put all the ingredients into a big bowl except for the butter, milk, and broth. Take the raw sausage out of its casing, slice, and mix it in.
2: Put the broth, butter, and milk into a sauce pot and heat until the butter melts. (If you are going to cook the stuffing in the turkey, leave out the broth.)
3: When the butter is melted and the liquid is warm, pour it over the mixture in the bowl, adding enough to make it really moist—soggy even, but not dripping.
4: Place the mixture into a casserole dish. Put it into the oven and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour or so—until the top is golden and the sausage fat is bubbling at the edges.
This must be served with gravy. And it’s best when there is a peppery bite to it.
I call leftovers!