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What is Italian Sausage?

Italian sausage is often added to chicken cacciatore.
Spicy Italian sausage usually has red pepper flakes.
Italian sausage includes pork meat that is finely cut and seasoned.
The spiced Italian sausage mixture is stuffed into casings to help the meat stay together when cooking.
Italian sausage added to marinara makes a spicy meat sauce.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2014
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Italy is known for many different types of sausages, but in the US, we tend to refer to one type of sausage only as Italian sausage. This is a pork sausage that can be mild to hot in flavor, and gets its distinctive taste from the addition of fennel seeds. Usually if the Italian sausage is labeled as spicy or hot, it also has red pepper flakes to provide extra heat.

The ingredients for Italian sausage are fairly simple: finely chopped pork meat, some pork fat, salt and pepper, usually nitrates, and fennel. Sausages of this type are about three to four inches (7.62-10.16 cm) long, and approximately half an inch to an inch (1.27-2.08) in diameter. The ingredients are packed into casings, so they stay together as the sausage cooks.

Italian sausage is popular served alone in sandwiches, perhaps accompanied by grilled bell peppers and onions. There are numerous uses for this sausage in a variety of dishes. For instance you can cook the sausage lightly and add it to marinara sauce, for a terrific and spicy meat sauce, or you can eat it as a breakfast sausage with traditional eggs and hash browns—figure about one to two sausages per person for breakfast.

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Though many people enjoy the spicy sausage, laden with red pepper flakes, some prefer the relatively milder versions. Actually, the mild version is quite sweet and mellow, better known for its distinctive anise flavoring. You may want to chose mild Italian sausages if you plan to serve them to a large gathering of people, as some people don’t care for the extra heat of the spicy version, and it may be hard to tell the two types apart when they’re cooked.

Cooking the Italian sausage is vitally important. Most versions are sold completely raw and must be fully cooked prior to serving. If you’re concerned about making sure the interior of these sausages are completely cooked, you can boil them for about ten minutes prior to grilling or frying them. If you plan to use Italian sausages in sliced form, you should definitely pre-cook them. Once you start cutting into the casing of a raw sausage, the interior tends to fall apart if pre-cooking does not solidify it.

Since these sausages do contain additional pork fat, they are not exactly low cholesterol offerings. They tend to be high in fat, and are not the perfect diet dish. On the other hand, they impart so much flavor, that you can generally get away with only adding a couple sliced ones to a sauce meant to serve a large number of people. Some Italian cooks add both sausage and ground meat to Italian red meat sauces. If you use lean meats like ground chicken or turkey, and add two to three sausages, you’ll lower the overall fat content of your red sauce without skipping the delicious flavor of Italian sausage.

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anon161212
Post 4

The soup you are thinking of is called pasta fazool. It is amazing.

cmsmith10
Post 3

@boathugger: Here is another great recipe for Italian sausage soup:

You need 2 lb. Italian sausage, 2 bunches broccoli, 1 lb. carrots, 1 lb. cauliflower, 4 cloves garlic (minced), ½ onion, 4 cups chicken broth, 2 eggs, 1 tsp. basil, 1 Tbsp. oregano, salt to taste, and grated parmesan cheese.

Mince the garlic and chop the onion. In a large pan, brown the sausage, onion and garlic over medium heat. While the sausage is cooking, chop up your vegetables. Add broth to a stock pot and bring to a boil.

When the sausage is cooked, add the vegetables to the meat mixture. Stir in the basil, salt, and oregano. Sauté until the vegetables are done. Mix the eggs in a bowl and slowly add them to the broth. Allow to cook for a few seconds and then stir gently.

Combine the meat and vegetables in the stock pot. Serve with grated parmesan cheese on top.

calabama71
Post 2

@boathugger: I am also a fan of Italian sausage. I have a recipe for the soup you are wanting. I love it but my husband doesn’t like it at all! Try it out and see what you think. You need the following ingredients:

1 lb. Italian sausage, 1 clove garlic (minced), 2 cans beef broth (14 oz. cans), 1 cup sliced carrots, 1 can Italian style stewed tomatoes (14.5 oz.), 1 can Northern beans (do not drain), 2 small zucchini (cubed), 2 cups spinach (packed, rinsed and torn), ¼ tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. ground black pepper.

In a stockpot, brown the sausage with the garlic. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, and carrots. Season it with the salt and pepper. Reduce your heat, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in your beans and zucchini. Simmer another 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add spinach. Replace the lid. After about 10 minutes, your soup should be ready.

BoatHugger
Post 1

I love Italian Sausage. I always use it when I make spaghetti. I am trying to find a recipe for homemade italian sausage soup. Has anyone ever heard of that? If so, could you post a recipe? Thanks a bunch.

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