I’m a huge sausage lover. I grew up on Hebrew National salami and grilled Dodger dogs in LA, continued with Sabrett and Nathan’s street hot dogs in New York, and eventually graduated to Italian soppressata, coppa, and other salumi.

But would I make them at home? Well, I’ve pretty much decided to forego making cured sausages, although there are many home cooks who do it successfully thanks to various classes and terrific instructional books like those by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, Rytek Kutas, and Bruce Aidells.

But fresh sausage? Absolutely. Especially after a couple of sessions with San Diego chef Joe Magnanelli. Magnanelli is himself self-taught with cured sausages. He is thoroughly grounded in technique plus he’s got great equipment to help ensure that the curing process results in both delicious and safe salumi.

Knowing that I wanted to learn how to make a fresh sausage, Magnanelli, demonstrated how a home cook or personal chef could do it—and it’s pretty easy. You could buy equipment to help you case the sausage but you don’t have to. In fact, here we have recipes for sausage patties for a delightful eggy breakfast sandwich and for a pasta dish. And once you’ve mastered the basic sausage recipe, you can create all sorts of unique dishes for clients.

Let’s start with what you will need: a meat grinder. And if you have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, you can easily buy a grinder attachment. You also need access to a freezer—yeah, of course you have that. You’ll want to briefly freeze the pork (or turkey or chicken or fatty fish) after prepping it before running it through the grinder. The chill keeps the protein and fat from sticking to the grinder blades and smearing.

If you’re making a pork sausage, the best cut to use is pork shoulder, Magnanelli said. That’s because it already has a good amount of fat in it. For his saucisson sec, the recipe calls for 20 percent pork fat and 80 percent meat.

The first time I met with Magnanelli, he made his saucisson sec, a traditional French salami, flavored with roasted garlic, salt, finely ground black pepper, and white wine. The second time, it was with minced garlic, red chili flakes, dried Sicilian oregano, kosher salt, toasted crushed fennel seed (crushed in a mortar and pestle), and a splash of white wine. The fennel, he said, gives the sausage a distinctive Italian quality. Both approaches will yield a delicious sausage. In fact, the beauty of sausage making is that you can add whatever seasonings appeal to you.

So, here’s how the process works: Cut the pork shoulder into one-inch pieces or what will fit into your grinder. Be sure as you cut that you trim off and discard the sinew and silver skin. Then put the pieces on a try and into the freezer until they are firm. Then mix the pork meat with the seasonings quickly so the pork stays cold. Grind the meat and flavorings together. If you don’t have a plunger for the grinder, Magnanelli suggests using the bottom of a whisk handle to help push the meat through the grinder.

Once you have your ground mixture in a bowl, season with kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, along with a touch of white wine. Mix it together by hand. That’s it!

If you are going to case the sausage, Magnanelli said hog casings (scrubbed, salted pig intestines) are the best. You can ask a butcher. If you are in the market for a stuffer, you can buy a five-pound sausage stuffer from a company called Northern Tool for about $100. There are lots of videos online that demonstrate sausage stuffing technique.

If you’re not going to case the sausage, you can use this ground mixture in many ways. You can make the best meatloaf or meatballs ever. You can make sausage patties. You can sauté the mixture, breaking it up into chunks, to serve with pasta. You can add it to a tomato sauce, soup, or stew. You can use it as a pizza topping or a calzone or sandwich filling. It’s that versatile. And what you don’t use right away you can freeze for later.

For Magnanelli’s Sausage Breakfast Sandwich, he buttered one side of two slices of New York rye bread and toasted them buttered side up until golden brown. Then, on the other side of the bread, he spread mayonnaise mixed with sriracha sauce. In a pan, he added a small amount of olive oil and then some of the sausage mixture. In a second pan, he added butter and olive oil, then an egg, which he fried. Just before the egg was ready, Magnanelli topped it with a slice of smoked cheddar cheese. He placed some cooked sausage on one slice of bread, then topped it with the egg and cheese and placed the second slice of bread over it to make the sandwich.

Magnanelli’s Spaghetti with Italian Sausage also included plump yellow chanterelle mushrooms (you can use any mushrooms you prefer), cipollini onions that he had already roasted, cherry tomatoes, white wine, and fresh minced basil. The process is simple. In a large pot you’ll cook your pasta in salted, boiling water. While the pasta is cooking, heat a skillet and add olive oil. Then add the sausage. Break it up but leave it a little chunky. Brown the sausage then add the onions and mushrooms. Sauté for a minute or so before adding the tomatoes and basil. Add a splash of wine and stir. Then add a splash of the pasta water before adding the cooked, drained pasta. If you like, you can grate parmesan cheese over it and stir it together while it cooks for another 30 seconds to let the flavors come together.

Once you plate the dish you can drizzle extra virgin olive oil over it and sprinkle more minced basil and grated cheese.

Basic Sausage Recipe

Serves 6

5 pounds pork shoulder
1 tablespoon toasted fennel seed
1 teaspoon chili flakes
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
¼ cup dry red wine
Salt and pepper to taste

Clean and dice pork shoulder to 1-inch pieces, or small enough to fit through a Kitchen Aid grinder attachment. Place pieces on a flat plate or tray and put in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes to make very cold, but not frozen.

Slightly grind up the fennel seed with the chili flake. You can do this in a mortar and pestle or use the back of a sauté pan.

When the pork is ready, mix with fennel seed, chili flake, and garlic. Slowly add the mixture into the top of the grinder and grind into the bowl of your mixer. Season with salt and pepper and red wine. You can mix the ingredients by hand or on the low speed of your mixer using the paddle attachment. To check for seasoning, take a small piece and flatten to a small disk. Heat a sauté pan and heat a small amount of oil. Cook on both sides until cooked through, about 1 minute on each side. Taste and re-season the rest of the pork mixture if necessary.

At this point the sausage is ready to use in various recipes. It can also be frozen to use later.

Sausage and egg breakfast sandwich

For 1 sandwich

2 ounces raw sausage mixture (see recipe above)
2 tablespoons butter
2 slices New York rye bread or other sliced bread
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sriracha or other chili sauce
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 farm egg
2 slices smoked cheddar cheese

Start by forming sausage into a disk like shape and keep refrigerated.

Spread 1 tablespoon of butter on each slice of bread on 1 side, then toast in a toaster oven butter-side up. While the bread is toasting, mix the mayonnaise and sriracha in a small bowl. When the bread is done toasting, spread the mayonnaise evenly on both slices.

Use the other tablespoon of butter and olive oil to fry the farm egg sunny side up. While the egg is cooking fry the sausage patty in another pan for about 1 minute on each side or until fully cooked in the middle. You want each side to brown slightly.

When the egg is ready, place the slices of cheese on top of the egg to melt.

To assemble, place the sausage patty on the bread, topped with the egg, and top with the other side of toast.

Spaghetti with Sausage, Cippolini, Chanterelle, and Cherry Tomato

Serves 2

2 tablespoons olive oil
10 cippolini onions
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
6 ounces sausage mixture (see recipe above)
½ pound chanterelle mushrooms (or any other mushroom), sliced in bite-sized pieces
½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
5 leaves fresh basil
8 ounces fresh spaghetti
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and heat an oven-ready sauté pan. Toss onions in a tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place them on the hot sauté pan and put the pan in the oven for 10 minutes. At about 5 minutes, pull out the pan and carefully flip each onion over to cook on the other side. Remove the onions from the pan and let cool. Cut them in half and set aside.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. While water is heating up, in a large sauté pan, heat remaining tablespoon of oil and cook sausage, breaking it up into bite-sized pieces. When the sausage is almost done, add cippolinis and chanterelle mushrooms. Cook for about 2 minutes more. Add cherry tomatoes and basil.

Cook the fresh spaghetti in the boiling water for about 30 to 40 seconds or until al dente (fresh pasta cooks very quickly); drain spaghetti and add it to the pan with the sausage mixture, along with a splash of the pasta cooking water. Toss all ingredients together and finish with butter. Season with salt and pepper.

Place pasta in a bowl and drizzle with a nice extra virgin olive oil and enjoy!

 

Have you ever made homemade sausage for clients? What did you make and how did they turn out?

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