Growing up, sometimes as a special treat, Mom would make spaghetti with spicy Italian sausage. It was yummy — as all of Mom’s meals are — but it was a very occasional treat because pork Italian sausage is so fatty.
So many years ago, I was THRILLED to find spicy turkey Italian sausage in my grocery. Both Butterball and Jennie-O make Italian sausages, available as sweet or hot. I don’t care for the sweet Italian sausage — never have — but the hot turkey Italian sausage is YUMMY, peoples! Whenever I would find it for sale, I’d stock up on it, wrapping the sausages in cling wrap and freezing them.
Over this past year, though, despite searching stores everywhere — including Tyler — I’ve only been able to find the sweet turkey Italian sausage. I can find spicy pork Italian sausage, but I really don’t want to spend the calories on it.
Remembering that I’ve made breakfast sausage in the past, I began wondering if I could make my own spicy Italian Sausage. I wouldn’t bother with putting it in the casing, because that wouldn’t really be necessary for my purposes, but I did want to be able to use it for Fabio Viviani’s “Lazy Meatballs,” where he squeezes bite-sized pieces of Italian sausage from the casing, rolls it into a meatball shape, and drops it into simmering pasta sauce to cook.
Also, of course, I would still be able to brown the sausage to use in any other recipes. The only thing I wouldn’t be able to do without the casing is make an Italian sausage sandwich, but given that I hardly, if ever, make those, I think I’ll be fine without the casing — and I could always make a Lazy Meatball sandwich, which would be similar. (NOTE: If you want your sausage in a casing, you can get them for use at home, and stuff them by hand or, if you plan on making a huge batch of them, you can get a machine that will help you stuff them.)
So, I began Googling recipes. Many call for using pork shoulder or pork butt, which is finely chopped/ground in either a meat grinder or food processor. There are a variety of spice combinations, also, from very basic and simple (salt, fennel, and red pepper flakes) to a myriad of spices and methods (including toasting spices and/or infusing them in olive oil) combined for a more complex flavor. Most of the recipes yielded anywhere from 2 to 20 pounds of sausage, but I only wanted to make a pound, especially on my maiden run.
After reviewing a variety of recipes, methods, and descriptions, I devised a plan to
- Use extra lean (90/10) ground turkey,
- Include a splash of olive oil (which I thought would help with the texture and flavor),
- Employ a variety of spices to make a flavorful “sausage,” and
- Give the “sausage” a couple of hours in the refrigerator for the flavors to meld before using it in a recipe (some recipes used the sausage mixture right away, others insisted it must be mixed one or more days ahead).
I thawed out a pound of ground turkey, made a list of the spices and their amounts that I wanted to use, mixed it all together, and then put it back in the ‘fridge for a couple of hours. To test it out, I made Fabio’s Lazy Meatballs with a Lucini pasta sauce (I opted not to make my own pasta sauce this time, as I wanted to focus on the “sausage” and its flavor).
Peoples: It. Was. YUMMY! Beloved loved the spicy flavor and the texture, and we’re both very happy to have Spicy Italian Sausage back in our lives!
- I used extra lean (90/10) ground turkey, but you can use ground chicken, ground pork, or even extra-lean ground beef. You could also use ground turkey breast or ground chicken breast, but you’ll get a richer flavor and better texture, I think, with 90/10 or 93/7 ground meat.
- If you use ground breast, I think I would add in a bit of finely minced carrot and onion to improve the texture and provide moisture.
- The recipe is for a pound, but you can scale it up or down fairly easily. If you like, you could make a large batch and freeze it in desired portion sizes for use later.
- Although you could probably use it right away, I do think giving it a couple – three hours (or overnight) for the flavors to meld and enhance will make for a more flavorful mixture.
- Making this yourself, of course, you can adjust the level of spice and heat. We like it spicy and hot, but if you want it milder, you could cut back on the red pepper flakes and/or the paprika, as well as the cayenne (or leave it out all together). And of course, if you want it hotter, you could add in more red pepper flakes, paprika, and/or cayenne. For us, the recipe as presented here gave us a yummy, fragrant, spicy, but not too hot, flavor.
- Dried herbs (as opposed to fresh) are the better choice for this recipe. With the exception of the powdered herbs and the pepper, I crushed/rubbed the herbs between my palms to make them finer and release more of their flavor. You could also whiz all the spices together in a food processor, if you prefer, before sprinkling them on the meat.
So here you go — homemade Spicy Italian Sausage. Buon Appetito!
Hot Italian Sausage (Makes 1 pound, easy to scale up or down)
- 1 pound lean (90/10 or 93/7) ground meat (I used turkey)
- Splash of olive oil (I used garlic-infused olive oil)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon basil (rub between your palms)
- 1 teaspoon oregano (rub between your palms)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¾ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 1 ¼ teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon fennel seed (rub between your palms)
- 1 teaspoon parsley (rub between your palms)
- Place ground meat in a bowl. Add in spices and drizzle with olive oil. Mix together thoroughly. (I wear disposable, non-powdered gloves — like those for first aid — when doing messy chores like this.)
- Cover and place in refrigerator for two or three hours or overnight for flavors to meld.
- Refrigerate or freeze after cooking OR freeze, uncooked, for later use.
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