Stuffing Wars: Mrs. Cinquino’s Recipe Wins Them All!

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Italian Stuffing

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)
  • Fresh parsley
  • 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. Place 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!


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19 Responses to Stuffing Wars: Mrs. Cinquino’s Recipe Wins Them All!

  1. Donna in Delaware November 20, 2009 at 10:36 am #

    This sounds delicious. I’ve never actually had sausage stuffing before, don’t know why, just never could wrap my mind around the idea of having sausage with turkey. As I age and my palate changes, I find that I am game for trying new things in the culinary world. But, I won’t start getting crazy with new foods and new mixtures of foods because there are some things that I just flat out refuse to eat.

    So, I will try this stuffing after Thanksgiving for the Christmas holiday. Oops, I forgot I will not be around for Christmas, so I’ll try it for New Years dinner. My husband is European and prefers goose, he says that turkey is too dry and tasteless for his liking. Maria, do you think your stuffing works with GOOSE? I’ll give it a dry run as a side dish first.

    Thanks again for all of the nice recipes you provide your readers.

    Have a happy, safe and joyous holiday with your family and friends.

  2. June November 20, 2009 at 11:50 am #

    We’ve always had Pepperidge Farm too….only with giblets while my grandma was alive.
    I leave them out now, along with the butter!
    But I still add the celery, onions, chicken broth….yum!

  3. Bernadette November 20, 2009 at 11:51 am #

    I never had potato filling until I met my husband’s family and my PA Dutch mother-in-law. I took a bite of the stuffing that first Thanksgiving with them and thought there was something wrong with it! I’ve grown to like it, but it is a little more bland than what I am used to.

    However, growing up in Boston, one of our stuffing traditions was/is scalloped oyster stuffing! Not cooked in the bird of course and in addition to the regular stuffing, but delicious and a rich New England tradition.

  4. Melissa in Ontario November 20, 2009 at 12:09 pm #

    I’m not a big fan of spicy italian sausage. I wonder if it would be just as good if I was to make it with a mild sausage or even a honey garlic?

  5. Laura November 20, 2009 at 12:20 pm #

    What the heck is “poultry seasoning?” I’ll have to get me some. I’m sure Lawry’s makes it, right? 🙂

    Stuffing sounds delicious.

    My family’s tradition from upstate New York is oyster dressing which would be served as an additional stuffing because there is not enough breadstuff on the table already. The recipe for that is guarded quite well, but I’m sure it’s similar to Bernadette’s Boston tradition.

    Thank you for the recipe!

  6. Linda November 20, 2009 at 3:01 pm #

    Some people like oyster stuffing, some like sausage stuffing, some like cornbread stuffing. I make it the way my mother did and combine all of them. I use bread crumbs mixed with a pan of cornbread, half a dozen eggs, celery, onion, pork sausage, a can of oysters, about half of the cooked giblets and enough broth to make it sloppy. I precook the sausage and giblets the day before, so the only raw ingredients in the stuffing are the eggs. I stuff my turkey and still have enough left over to fill a couple of loaf pans which cook outside the turkey and usually go home with some of the guests. Been doing it this way for nearly 40 years and my family won’t let me stop now. . . Health food, it ain’t, but once a year won’t hurt.

  7. Bernard "Nee-How?" Roth November 20, 2009 at 4:28 pm #

    I make a Chinese “Five Treasure” Dressing, with sticky rice, long grain Thai Rice, and a bit of Wild Rice, each pre-cooked separately. I add some cooked and chopped pork sausage, roasted peanuts, cubed hard boiled eggs, and some flour, rendered fat, garlic, salt & pepper, and mix with a little Hoy Sin Sauce, wrap & tie in a palm leaf, banana leaf, or corn husk,tie and steam gently for an hour. Open and each with some spicy hot pepper/garlic sauce mixed with lite Soy

  8. Maye November 20, 2009 at 6:06 pm #

    I will be going to the cabin in Northern Minnesota for Thanksgiving and you can bet this recipe will be in my file. Thanks so much!!!!!

  9. Sheila November 20, 2009 at 7:57 pm #

    I make a very similar recipe as above but with mild breakfast sausage and the addition of chopped apple. I’ve baked in & out of the bird and we enjoy it either way! Happy Thanksgiving!!

  10. Diane November 20, 2009 at 8:50 pm #

    Mrs. Cinquino and my mom (from Naples, Italy) have the same recipe! Mom uses white bread instead of cubed bread crumbs. Yes, it is equally delicious made with mild sausage. I usually make both, one baked inside the turkey and the other in a casserole dish. Fighting ensues over who gets the crispy crust……..and the leftovers are to die for!

  11. Catlady3 November 20, 2009 at 9:35 pm #

    They all sounded great. In the Southern version we never cooked the dressing in the turkey. I was cooked in a separate tin. Our family recipe had about half white bread and half homemade buttermilk cornbread. We often cooked a chicken separately to have enough broth. I’ve never had sausage with it although it sounds good. Onions, celery, boiled eggs, milk, butter, poultry seasoning, black pepper, chicken broth, fresh eggs and sage were all included. Both my grandmothers made wonderful dressing.

  12. Donna in Delaware November 22, 2009 at 9:43 am #

    LAURA, “poultry seasoning” is just that, herbs and spices mixed together to season chicken,turkey,goose and any other game bird for cooking or roasting, frying, etc. Ususally with onion, garlic, salt, pepper,paprika,
    thyme, sometimes rosemary, sage, etc. It can be used for all fowl or you can add other spices and herbs to suit your own taste, allspice, (not the kind used for cakes and such) marjoram, sweet curry powder,etc.

  13. Amanda November 22, 2009 at 8:03 pm #

    Mmmmm….I adore sausage and sage stuffing (our family’s tradition) and am sure I’d love the Italian version, too. Since my hubby would eat stuffing every day if I’d let him, we’ll be trying this recipe at some point between now and Christmas!

  14. Tony November 23, 2009 at 4:53 pm #

    Sometime I’ll have to make the stuffing balls that wooed Maya for y’all as well. The secret sauce is the so tiny mushroom pieces combined with double the normal amount of egg for extra juiciness…

  15. Esther in Germany November 25, 2009 at 9:01 am #

    Living in Germany, I don’t have the luxury of a Safeway full of Thanksgiving goodies around the corner. We make everything from scratch and it tastes so good, there’s no going back. We’ve been making a similar sausage stuffing for years. We put in bratwurst and add tart apples like Sheila to round out the flavor. Most of our German friends hesitate when they first try it but are quickly convinced that it just isn’t a turkey dinner without stuffing.

  16. Donna in Dallas November 25, 2009 at 12:52 pm #

    I agree The Stuffing is as inportant, as iceing on a Cake ! I dont use Sasuage, but apple & walnuts R on my List along w/ Onions, Garlic, Celery & seasoning ! We Give Thanks to the Good Lord, & that makes it twice as good. God Bless everyone on this Thanksgiving.

  17. cindi August 2, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

    My grandmother and mother and I have been making this dressing as long as I can remember.I have always stuffed the turkey, never cooked the sausage. Best receive EVER! My x still drooled over this dressing

  18. Nura November 20, 2015 at 10:58 am #

    Well, BT first ya gotta find out who has the best gravy making sklils! I think its easy, but it seems to so many other people its as if you have to have a flippin’ college degree in the Gravy Arts. So, what would that be a GA instead of a BA?? ha ha. Personally, its the only thing I treasure out of my first marriage learning how to make fool proof gravy. HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYBODY!!!!May you all sleep with full tummies and awake with nary a hangover to be found. lol~ H.S.(ps on this video apparently the guy has dealt with these infections in the past, and this is mild for him. I would assume given previous experiences he knows what he’s doing. ;P )

  19. Beth November 26, 2020 at 8:03 am #

    Thank you for this recipe!
    My Mom made the best stuffing ever and this is so similar to hers. I remember, as a child, watching her make it every Thanksgiving. Sadly she past away when I was eighteen and I had a hard time remembering all the ingredients. Three years ago I went looking for a raw sausage stuffing recipe and came across yours. It helped me fill in the blanks. I too use white (day old) bread and mild breakfast sausage but everything else is spot on. A new family tradition and favorite.

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