UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS OF ITALIAN SAUSAGE
The Italian sausage we are accustomed to in the U.S. is an American creation. If you were to visit Naples and request an Italian sausage, you are likely to receive blank stares. However, if you requested salsiccia [sahl/SEE/tchay] then you would likely receive a sausage with fennel or anise as the key seasoning. This is very close to the Italian sausage you would purchase at your local grocery store.
The sausage we call Italian is a fresh sausage. It typically consists of:
- Finely chopped pork
- Pork fat
- Red pepper flakes to be mild to hot in taste
- Fennel seeds/anise give its most distinct flavors
- Salt, pepper, and nitrates
- All ingredients are packed into a typical sausage casing
Italian sausage is normally found in stores packaged as either Hot or Mild. The difference, is the amount of red pepper flakes. So, the next time you're wondering which one to buy, feel free to buy Mild: you can always add red pepper flakes, or your favorite spicy seasoning if you want to give it a little extra bite.
WAYS TO USE ITALIAN SAUSAGE
There is no end to the ways you work Italian sausage into your dishes. Since you can grill (best reserved for cased sausage) or sauté it, it can be a great addition to your BBQ, picnic, tailgate party; it can also be added to a pizza, pasta or to some peppers for a great sausage and pepper sandwich.
See one of my favorite recipes to (quickly) make Italian sausage at home – no casing necessary!
Looking for a few more ideas, check out some of these dishes.