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Fresh Sausage

Salsiccia Fresca
On Christmas Eve, while we're attending Midnight Mass, my fennel seed-flavored pork sausage slowly cooks in the oven. Traditionally it is the first thing we eat on returning home, signaling the end of the meatless fast of la vigilia. For the most succulent sausage, buy pork butt that has about one third fat, or it will be too dry. Have the butcher grind it once coarse and once fine. You can make the sausage ahead and freeze it in airtight plastic bags. These are great cooked on an outdoor grill. Makes 5 pounds


Natural hog casings

5 pounds boneless pork butt, ground

2 tablespoons fine sea salt

2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

3 tablespoons fennel seeds

1 to 2 tablespoons hot red pepper flakes


In a bowl, soak 3 or 4 casings in several changes of cold water for about 10 minutes to remove the salt. If the casings are very long, cut them into 24-inch segments.

In a large bowl, combine the pork with all the remaining ingredients and mix well. Test a small piece for seasoning by frying it in a hot skillet, and correct the seasoning if necessary.

Drain the casings. Slip one end of a casing over the narrow opening of a sausage funnel. Place the funnel under the faucet and run cold water through it. With your hands, slide the casing up onto the funnel, leaving about 2 inches free at the end. Remove the funnel from the faucet and tie a knot in the end.

Push the sausage mixture, a little at a time, through the funnel with your thumbs, and fill the casing, leaving about 2 inches free at the end. Tie a knot in the end and release any air bubbles in the casing by pricking it with a sterilized safety pin. Repeat with the remaining meat.

To bake the sausages, preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the sausages in a baking dish and add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Bake, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes, or until nicely browned. As excess water and fat accumulate in the pan, drain it off; after about 20 minutes, the sausage will begin to brown in its own juices. Remove the sausage to paper towels to drain. Cut into pieces and serve.

To fry, place the sausages in a large skillet and add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook over medium heat, turning occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until browned. As excess water and fat accumulate in the pan, pour them off.

Cut into pieces and serve.

NOTE:  Natural hog casings are available in the meat section of some grocery stores and in butcher shops.  Keep any unused casings, still packed in salt, in the refrigerator for future use.

This recipe is from CELEBRATIONS ITALIAN STYLE by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company, Inc., in 1995.

Don't have a sausage funnel?  Check them out on the web:'t  or

This recipe is featured on show 2002 - Bitter Greens.


  1. Francine Ragonese's avatar

    Francine Ragonese

    I make my own sausage that I learned from my Nonna and parents and also my aunts and some of the neighbors. We lived in a Italian neighborhood in Chicago were everyone came from Southern Italy. I remember the lady next door would make a special sausage that she hung on a broom stick and dry then we ate it without cooking it. It was so so good. I make my sausage like yours except I put my fennel seeds in a coffee grinder until it's a powder, because I don't like to bite into it. So I just get the good flavor. I like watching your shows because it brings me back to the good old days. Since then everyone has passed and my brother and one cousin are the old timers and not able to get together anymore. I still make home made pasta, sauces, biscotti, pitsella and bread. My kids are spoiled and like home made sauce, but I'm getting to old and sickness prevents me from cooking as often. I wish you show was on every day I love watching it.

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