Mary Ann's Blog

How to Make Italian Sausage Without a Machine

My outdoor grill has been teasing me to light her fire and that can only mean one thing: its time to grill homemade Italian sausage! And I know what you are thinking, but no, you don’t need a meat grinder and loads of other equipment to do this; all you need is a good pair of hands, a good recipe, a good pork butt, and a funnel.

So if you want to try your hand at making it, here is what you need to know:

Get a good pork butt, one that has a good ratio of fat to meat otherwise the sausage will be dry. Go to your favorite market and ask the butcher to show you a bunch of pork butts; they usually weigh in the five pound range. Then ask him to coarse grind the one you choose.

Next, buy a box of natural hog casings; they are usually in the meat case and come packed in salt, but if you don’t see them, ask your butcher. You will have to rinse them well several times in cold water to get rid of the salt and you may need to cut them into manageable lengths with a scissors because they can be very long.  You can store unused casings in the freezer. Now, armed with this information, you are ready to make sausage.

Have ready some fine sea salt, coarse black pepper, fennel seeds and hot red pepper flakes. Put the meat in a big bowl and season it with 3 tablespoons salt, 1 tablespoon coarse black pepper, 4 tablespoons fennel seeds and as much hot red pepper flakes as you like. I also like to add fennel pollen, a spice not often easy to find. It is a powder that smells and tastes like anise and in Tuscany it is widely used with pork. Make sure to mix everything well with clean hands, then take a spoonful and fry it and then taste it to make sure it is seasoned the way you like it. Add more seasonings if you need to.

Slip one open end of a casing over your kitchen faucet and turn on the cold water; allow the water to run through the casing; this will make it easy to slip over the end of the funnel. Place the open end of the casing over the nozzle part of the funnel and push most of the casing up onto the nozzle but leave about a two inch tail and knot it.

Start taking small amounts of the sausage and push it with your thumb into the mouth of the funnel and into the casing; do not over fill it or it may break. Fill the casing evenly but leave about 2 inches of the casing remaining at the top unfilled. Slip the casing off the funnel and knot the end. Use a toothpick to poke little holes here and there along the sausage. This will prevent the sausage from exploding when cooking. Continue making sausage as above.

I like to leave it in long lengths but if you want to make links, just twist the casing every 3 or 4 inches as you fill it. Coil the sausage and place it in freezer bags, or better yet, cryovac them and freeze for up to 6 months.  But you could just head right to the grill, and when it is hot, lay on hand made sausage.

Homemade Italian sausage rules!  You’ll see. Happy Grilling!


  1. Barbara's avatar


    Thanks for this recipe and method! My father used to make sausage, and I've been longing for a good Italian sausage. Our family puts a little red wine, no red pepper. Many thanks and good wishes.

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