If you are still putting your Thanksgiving menu together, this Italian Sausage Stuffing is a terrific riff on the classic holiday side dish. Featuring mild or sweet Italian sausage, this ultra-moist stuffing is full of flavor, easy to make and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.

I use Italian sausage links for this recipe, mainly because they are a staple in our freezer, but you could use a ground sausage mix instead. If using links, run a sharp knife along the sausage, cutting from top to bottom, and then discard the casing. I love the blend of flavors in Italian sausage, which is typically made with fennel seeds, garlic and crushed red peppers. This recipe calls for mild or sweet Italian sausage, but you can use a hot version if desired.

Mild ground sausage or links can be used in this recipe, and the casing can be removed by slicing the links from top to bottom with a sharp knife. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Mild ground sausage or links can be used in this recipe, and the casing can be removed by slicing the links from top to bottom with a sharp knife. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

I cook the sausage in 6 tablespoons of melted butter, and once it is browned, I add diced onions, celery and minced garlic. These aromatics are cooked with the sausage until the onions are soft and translucent, and the butter adds more flavor than olive or vegetable oil would.

Fresh sage and thyme are added to the mixture, followed by 3 cups of chicken stock, and then it is cooked until simmering. You can use turkey or vegetable stock if preferred, or even water would work in a pinch.

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Fresh sage and thyme give the stuffing a warm and aromatic flavor. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Fresh sage and thyme give the stuffing a warm and aromatic flavor. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Bread is the stuff in the stuffing, and my choice for this recipe is Breadsmith’s Rustic Italian bread, but any loaf of country white or sourdough bread will work well. I buy the bread presliced, and then cut the slices into half-inch cubes.

Stale bread is ideal for stuffing, because the dryness helps the bread cubes soak up the liquid without breaking down during the baking process. I place the cut cubes on a baking sheet and let them sit overnight, uncovered, to dry them out before making the stuffing.

Sarah's choice of bread for this stuffing recipe is Breadsmith's Rustic Italian, which she cuts into cubes and dries overnight so that the bread can absorb the moisture without breaking down as the stuffing bakes. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Sarah's choice of bread for this stuffing recipe is Breadsmith's Rustic Italian, which she cuts into cubes and dries overnight so that the bread can absorb the moisture without breaking down as the stuffing bakes. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Sausage is not the only Italian twist to this recipe, which benefits from the inclusion of half a cup of grated Parmesan cheese. The cheese is mixed with the bread cubes and two beaten eggs before the sausage mixture is added, to give the stuffing a smooth and creamy finish, and a flavorful tang of nutty flavor.

You can use fresh or canned Parmesan cheese here — I’ve used both and cannot tell the difference, so save your money and go with the famous green can with a clear conscience.

Eggs, Parmesan cheese and chicken stock are the binding agents to create a stuffing that is ultra-moist and flavorful. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Eggs, Parmesan cheese and chicken stock are the binding agents to create a stuffing that is ultra-moist and flavorful. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

The stuffing is transferred to a 3-quart casserole dish, dotted with small pats of butter and baked in the oven, covered, for 30 minutes. At this stage, I remove the foil cover and continue to bake the dish until the stuffing is puffy and golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Much of the prep work for this stuffing can be done a day or more in advance, and leftovers (if there are any) can be refrigerated for up to four days or frozen for two to three months. This stuffing is a favorite in our family, and we hope you enjoy it, too.

The sausage is cooked in melted butter until browned, and then diced onions, celery and garlic are stirred in to enhance the aromatic intensity of the stuffing. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
The sausage is cooked in melted butter until browned, and then diced onions, celery and garlic are stirred in to enhance the aromatic intensity of the stuffing. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Today marks the ninth anniversary of this column, and as we approach Thanksgiving, I want you to know how grateful I am that I get to think and write about food for you every week. This creative work brings me joy and makes my world just that much more delicious. Thank you!

Italian Sausage Stuffing

PRINT: Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe

Serves: 8 to 10

Ingredients:

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided

1 pound mild or sweet Italian ground sausage, or links with casings removed

2 cups celery, small-diced

2 cups yellow onion, small-diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, stems removed, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

3 cups chicken broth (may also use turkey or vegetable stock)

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground pepper

2 large eggs

1 loaf (1.5 pounds) rustic Italian, country white or sourdough bread, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 13 to 14 cups)

½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and use butter or cooking spray to grease a 3-quart baking dish; set aside.

In a large skillet, melt 6 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring often to break up the meat, until browned and fully cooked, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium. Add the celery, onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the sage and thyme and stir until incorporated. Add the broth and stir in the salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then remove the pan from the burner.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Add the bread cubes and Parmesan cheese and toss to combine. Add the sausage mixture and stir well until fully combined.

Transfer the stuffing to the prepared baking dish. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into small pieces and scatter them evenly over the stuffing. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and continue baking until golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes. The stuffing should have an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees when ready.

Remove from oven and let the stuffing cool, lightly covered, for 10 minutes before serving. Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Reheat in the oven at 350 degrees, covered, until heated through, about 15 minutes, or in the microwave.

Sarah’s Tips:

  • The bread can be cut into cubes up to 5 days in advance and stored at room temperature until ready to use. For best results, once cut, let the bread cubes air-dry on a baking sheet overnight and then store in a zip-top bag or airtight container until ready to use. The dried bread cubes may also be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • The onions, celery and garlic can be diced a day or 2 in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.

Recipe Time Capsule:

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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.