I grew up around Italian food. I remember turning the crank of the pasta maker with my Nana, seeing her arms orange to the elbows from the paprika during soppresata time, kneading bread dough, walking into the wine cellar hearing and smelling the crushed grapes start to fizz.
Getting introduced to something called a slaughterhouse at age seven. Because that’s where the freshest meat comes from, of course.
You know, those warm and fuzzy childhood memories. o_O
So, when we discovered the Mister’s gluten issues, of course I thought for sure my Good Traditional Cook card would be revoked and I’d morph into more of a specialty food box-opener.
As I learned that there was much more to life than white flour, I adapted pretty quickly, though I had to re-learn everything.
True, I lost a utensil (the hunk of bread you have in one hand while you eat with the other), but nobody can take Nana’s flavors away from me. I just have to think beyond spaghetti.
I’ve found that most grocery store Italian sausage brands do not contain gluten. However, most do contain either MSG or nitrates or both. Rather than comb the stores for a natural-ish brand that actually tastes good, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I say this every time I make from scratch something I used to buy, but I’m not going back.
Homemade Italian Sausage Recipe
1 tbsp fennel seed, coarse ground
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
2 tsp paprika
1 tbsp dried Italian herb blend
4 cloves garlic
2 lb boneless pork shoulder, cubed (or ground pork if you’re not going to grind it yourself)
1/4c red wine
First, grind the fennel seeds in a spice grinder or coffee mill. Leave them whole if you like it that way. I crushed them in the mortar and pestle to get them half whole and half ground.
Next, combine all dry ingredients – fennel, salt, pepper, paprika and herbs – in a large bowl. Mix in the garlic, meat and wine. Run the mixture through your grinder, or combine if you used ground pork.
Break off a little bit and fry it up to check your seasonings. After you’ve made your adjustments, shape your sausage into links, patties or meatballs.
I shaped mine into little meatballs and plopped them into simmering minestrone. Feel free to use your Italian sausage just as you would cook up the store-bought kind.
Note that this was my method for free-form sausage. I’ve never used casings without supervision, but I have every reason to believe that this recipe would work beautifully if you would want to grind everything into casings.
Another thing…if you don’t have pork, feel free to use ground chicken or chicken thighs. I’ve made chicken apple sausage for breakfast using chicken and it rocks my socks. It’ll work.