Hot Italian Sausage

Happy Friday, y’all!  Boy, I love a short work week, don’t you?

Today I would like to talk about sausage.  Fresh sausage, free of casings, ready to be used in meatballs or a meat sauce, meatloaf or formed into patties and fried up for breakfast.  It’s the easiest of sausages to make yourself – all you need is some ground pork and the necessary spices, depending on the flavor of sausage you want.

We never ate Italian sausage when I was growing up; being from Texas, the only Italian food we ever encountered was either spaghetti or lasagna, and my mother made those with ground beef.  However, in northeast Ohio Italian food isn’t so much a cuisine as it is a religion, and Italian sausage is its Messiah.

Yes, I am totally blaspheming in the name of tasty pork products.

At any rate, I guess that makes me a convert because I’ve discovered that I just love the stuff, especially the hot variety.  Until recently, when we would buy a whole hog, I’d order a third of our fresh sausage made into hot Italian.  These days, however, I decided I wanted to experiment with the whole fresh sausage thing, and have begun ordering all of our fresh sausage as plain ground pork, to see what I can do with it.

Quite a lot, as it turns out, including making my own hot Italian sausage.

This is the recipe I used when I made Creamy Pumpkin “Pasta” a few weeks ago, and it is an excellent one.  The thing I like best about it is, of course, I control the seasonings and can make it as mild or as hot as I like.  This recipe, as written, has a bit of a kick to it, but isn’t burn-your-tongue-off spicy either.  And yes, I made it for breakfast, just ’cause it’s so darn good, but like I said – you can use it in any recipe calling for hot Italian sausage.  If one pound is too little, the recipe can easily be doubled and tripled.

For my non-pork readers, I have three words for you:  Ground chicken thighs.

Oh, and for those of you doing a Whole30 this January – yup, you can eat it.

Hot Italian Sausage

Hot Italian Sausage

Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
Instructions
  1. Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and combine well, using your hands, until all of the spices are evenly distributed throughout the meat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cooking to allow the flavors to permeate the pork.
  2. Nutrition (per serving): 308 calories, 24.2g total fat, 81.7mg cholesterol, 536mg sodium, 372.2mg potassium, 1.9g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, <1g sugar, 19.6g protein

Sausage and Red Pepper Tomato Sauce

It must be Monday, y’all!  So let’s link up all our best real food recipes that can be made ahead!

Recently, I began noticing a certain blogger who is a contributor to Chowstalker.  I began noticing her not just because she was posting wonderful-looking recipes, but because instead of accompanying the recipes with a photo, she was posting gorgeous – and creative – illustrations.  Her name is Alex Boake, and she is a professional illustrator based in Toronto, as well as a marvelous cook.

I began following Alex’s blog, and she has become a contributor to Make Ahead Monday (in fact, she’s linked up this very recipe).  Recently, she contacted me and suggested we do a “recipe swap” – she’d choose a recipe I’d posted, cook it and do one of her marvelous illustrations, and I would choose one of her recipes, cook and photograph it.  I agreed quite eagerly, and we decided on the recipes and when we would post them.

It was hard to choose which of Alex’s delicious recipes to cook but I decided on this one – Sausage and Red Pepper Tomato Sauce.  And I am so glad I did – this is one of the best pasta sauces I’ve ever had.  It also makes a ton – I fed it to eight people for dinner and still had 6 quart jars leftover for my freezer; the recipe will initially fill an 8-quart stock pot to the brim.

I made a couple of minor modifications to the original recipe.  Alex calls for 4 pounds of hot Italian sausage in casings; I was feeding people who weren’t tolerant of extremely spicy foods, so I used 2 pounds of hot Italian sausage and 2 pounds of plain ground pork.  In addition, I only had bulk sausage so I couldn’t pre-cook them in the casings, but I don’t think the sauce suffered from the change.  I increased the mushrooms from 14 ounces (her recipe specifies half of a 28-ounce package) to 1 pound.  I also streamlined the recipe directions a little; Alex presents her recipes in a lovely conversational format, and my OCD kicks in when I begin writing them 🙂 However, the recipe is essentially the same.

I served this over pasta for my guests; Beloved and I had it over a roasted parsnip puree.  I have plans for the leftovers, so expect to see this make a reappearance in the future.  And, as always, if you don’t eat pork you can replace it with turkey sausage/ground turkey.

And please visit Alex’s blog; her recipes are delicious, her illustrations are stunning, and she is a sweetheart.

Sausage and Red Pepper Tomato Sauce
Sausage and Red Pepper Tomato Sauce
Serves: 20
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds bulk hot Italian sausage
  • 2 pounds ground pork
  • 4 cans (28 ounces) whole plum tomatoes
  • 4 can (6 oz) cans tomato paste
  • 1 pound sliced white mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons clarified butter or ghee, divided
  • 4 medium onions, diced
  • 4 sweet red peppers, cut into thin strips about 1-inch long
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
Instructions
  1. Wipe the tops of the cans of tomatoes with a clean, damp cloth; remove the lids with a can opener. Using a sharp knife, roughly chop/slice the tomatoes while they are still in the cans. This will help the tomatoes reduce in the sauce as they cook.
  2. Pour the tomatoes into an 8-quart stock pot; add the tomato paste. Bring the mixture briefly to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Add the mushrooms to the sauce.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the ghee or clarified butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the diced onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent; add the minced garlic and cook for one minute more. Stir the onion/garlic mixture into the sauce in the stock pot. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee to the skillet and cook the red peppers over medium heat just until they begin to soften; add to the sauce.
  4. Stir the bay leaves, basil, salt and oregano into the sauce.
  5. Heat the same skillet you cooked the onions and peppers in over medium-high heat. Cook the sausage and ground pork, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, just until it is no longer pink. Add the meat to the sauce in the stock pot.
  6. Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to low and cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape. Simmer for 3 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent the sauce burning on the bottom. Remove the bay leaves and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed, before serving.
  7. Serve over pasta, spaghetti squash, mashed cauliflower, mashed potatoes or roasted parsnip puree. Freeze the remaining portions for later use.
  8. Nutrition (per serving): 354 calories, 26.6g total fat, 73.2mg cholesterol, 914.7mg sodium, 785.8mg potassium, 13g carbohydrates, 3.3g fiber, 7.2g sugar, 17g protein.

PLEASE – post recipes with whole, real food ingredients only. Dairy, sprouted grains and legumes and natural sweeteners are allowed, but recipes containing processed or refined ingredients or vegetable oils will be removed.  Don’t forget to link back to this post! Thanks for your cooperation.