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  • Writer's pictureScott Rotella

Italian Fennel Sausage: A flavorful and versatile ingredient

Updated: Sep 8, 2023


Packages of fennel sausage


Fennel sausage is a type of sausage that is made with pork, fennel seeds, and other spices. It is a popular ingredient in Italian cuisine, and can be used in a variety of dishes, such as pasta, pizza, and soups.

The history of fennel sausage is long and complex. It is believed to have originated in Italy, and was likely first made by farmers who used the wild fennel that grew in the area. The sausage quickly became popular, and was eventually brought to other parts of the world by Italian immigrants.

Fennel sausage is a flavorful and versatile ingredient. The fennel seeds add a unique flavor to the sausage, which is both sweet and savory. The sausage can be used in a variety of dishes, and is a great way to add flavor and texture to your meals.

Here are some of the ways you can use fennel sausage:

  • Pasta: Fennel sausage is a great addition to pasta dishes. It can be cooked in a pan with onions and garlic, and then added to your favorite pasta sauce.

  • Pizza: Fennel sausage is a popular topping for pizza. Par-cook your sausage prior to placing it on the pizza.

  • Soups: Fennel sausage is a great addition to soups. It can be cooked in the soup, or added after the soup is cooked.

  • Meatballs and Meatloaf: Fennel sausage is a great addition to meatballs and meatloaf as it adds a complex flavor addition.

Fennel sausage is a delicious and versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. So next time you are looking for a flavorful and satisfying meal, try using Italian fennel sausage.

I have tasted some excellent link style fennel sausages in Italian restaurants where they make their own. However, I was never successful in finding the flavor I wanted in store bought sausages, so I developed this bulk sausage recipe to mimic the flavors I have grown to love from certain Italian restaurants. This recipe also ensures your sausage is made of no unnecessary ingredients such as pork scraps or nitrates.

This can also be put into casings if you desire. I know you will enjoy it too!

Making Homemade Fennel Sausage

A little info about ingredients

  • Pork: Use pork shoulder (butt). This will generally have quite a bit of fat, but not enough for sausage. So you will want to ask your butcher for some pork fat that is about 10-15% of the weight of the pork shoulder. Even the big stores will do this but may ask you to come back the next day after they reserve fat scraps.

  • Fennel Pollen: I include this to add some subtle interest to the flavor of the pork. The pollen is harvested from the fennel flowers, resulting in a rather expensive ingredient. You can certainly leave this out, but I would highly recommend investing in some fennel pollen. In addition to making sausage awesome, it is also great sprinkled on pizzas, added to a tomato sauces (gives the hint of sausage in a non-meat sauce), or sprinkled on pasta dishes.

  • Garlic: If you have access to Dorot’s frozen garlic, I would highly recommend it. Some grocery stores carry it, but I find the best price at Trader Joe’s. Unlike jarred minced garlic, this keeps a nice fresh flavor and really cuts down on prep and stinky hands.

A little info about tools

  • Food Scale: Getting the salt balance is important. I do not show a typical teaspoon / tablespoon measurement for salt in the recipe because any volume measurement of salt is dependent on the salt used. A teaspoon of table salt is about twice as salty as a teaspoon of coarse sea salt. So I use a scale for this. Actually I scale out all of the ingredients and recommend you do the same. I have included a link to my sausage calculator where you can input the total weight in grams of your meat and the calculator will provide weight in grams for the spice mix. Depending how much you make, you may need to weigh your meat in batches and tally them together to calculate the required salt. I like this OXO scale as it has a pull out readout and makes it easier to use when you have a large bowl of ingredients.

  • Grinder: I use a grinder attachment for my kitchenaid mixer to make sausage. I started with a hand crank grinder, but graduated to electric when I started making 14+ pounds of sausage at a time.

  • Food Processor: If you do not have a grinder or do not want to invest in one, you can use a food processor to get similar results.

  • Vacuum Sealer: If you are planning to make sausage in bulk (and why not), packaging in 1 pound vacuum sealed packages is a great way to freeze your sausage and keep it very fresh.



You are now ready to package and/or use. Again, I package in one pound portions. You will see in the picture above that I create flat packages. They store easier in the freezer and they thaw out in less than 20 minutes.


Using the Sausage

Want some inspiration to use the sausage? I have included a few of my favorite uses below.


Quick Meat Ragu


This is a quick and easy sauce that is full of flavor and very versatile. It is great on pasta–I prefer tagliatelle for this. You can even add more tomato for a thinner sauce for dishes like lasagne.

I always use whole canned tomatoes, instead of crushed or sauce, as the flavor is better preserved in the whole tomato. Additionally, although they are hard to find and can be expensive, I would encourage you to try Bianco DiNapoli whole canned tomatoes. You can find them in Whole Foods, Cost Plus World Market and on Amazon among other places. They have a very low acidity, a ton of tomato meat, few seeds and a natural sweetness. I do not use anything else. If that is not available to you, then I would recommend a San Marzano or San Marzano style whole canned tomatoes.





Quick Meat Ragu served with tagliatelle


Meatballs

Large meatball served with marinara and shaved parm


These meatballs are flavorful and light. Depending on the use, we make meatballs that are Extra Small (half inch) to add to soups, Small (about an inch) for appetizers and pizza, Medium (about 1 1/2 inches) for inclusion in pasta (aka spaghetti and meatballs) and Large (2.5 inches) to serve as a side course with a marinara.

One of our favorites is to serve as an appetizer with our Sweet and Spicy Barbeque sauce.




Small meatballs with sweet and spicy barbeque sauce


Pizza

I love this sausage on pizza. It is always a favorite at our pizza parties. I always partially cook my sausage in the oven (or toaster oven or air fryer) until the exterior is browned and still pink in the center. This will ensure that it is cooked on the pizza and not overcooked.


Here is my process to prepare the sausage for pizza:

  • Thaw out package for about 10 minutes.

  • Unpackage the rectangle and place on a cutting board.

  • Using a knife, cut the meat about every ¾ inches both vertically and horizontally to make small ¾ inch squares of sausage.

  • I cook in my toaster oven / air fryer combo at 325 for about 6 minutes or in my traditional oven at 350 for about 12 minutes.

  • Let partially cool and then break chunks into smaller chunks by hand for the pizza. I usually break each square into two or three pieces.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post about Italian fennel sausage. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below.


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