How Do I Choose the Best Italian Sausage?

Angela Farrer

You can choose the best Italian sausage based on the level of freshness, how spicy you like your Italian sausage, and the recipe you are making with it. Most sausage manufacturers label each package with a recommended sell-by date, and this type of sausage is generally best used about five to seven days before this date. The best Italian sausages also usually have lower amounts of preservatives, though they often need to be cooked soon after purchase. Some Italian recipes call for dried rather than fresh sausage, and many cooks find that this sausage has the best flavors when it has been stored for a relatively short time.

Italian sausages.
Italian sausages.

Italian sausage is generally made from pork mixed with ground fennel seeds in order to create its unique flavor. Some cooks report that fresh rather than dried fennel leads to better sausage taste. This kind of pork sausage can also be made in lean varieties that have lower amounts of saturated fat. Many cooks find that the best kind of lean Italian sausage is made from natural ingredients rather than with excessive artificial fillers. Those who shop for sausage on a regular basis sometimes find the freshest Italian sausage earlier in the day at local markets.

Italian sausage is often added to chicken cacciatore.
Italian sausage is often added to chicken cacciatore.

Some cooks prefer to use sausages that are designated organic, though others report that they do not find a large flavor difference between organic and non-organic types of sausage. Different recipes may call for various types of Italian sausage in order to bring out the best possible flavors. Favorite Italian dishes such as sausage ravioli and ziti often call for milder sausage made with sweeter fennel and leaner pork. Other recipes for meatballs, cacciatore, and lasagna are frequently made with spicier sausage. Sweet or mild sausage can be substituted into any of these recipes for cooks who have sensitivities to spicy foods or who simply do not care for hot flavors.

Fresh Italian sausages are typically much better than those prepared with preservatives.
Fresh Italian sausages are typically much better than those prepared with preservatives.

The best choices for Italian sausage can also depend on dietary preferences. Some cooks like to make lower-fat dishes but do not want to completely eliminate sausages due to their rich flavor. Chicken-based sausages are often good choices, and many varieties are made with the same fennel seasoning so that they retain the unique flavoring of Italian sausages. Vegetarian versions of Italian sausages are also the best choices for meatless diets, and they can be made from ingredients such as compact tofu or soy protein.

Sausage typically contains fennel seeds.
Sausage typically contains fennel seeds.

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Discussion Comments


@raynbow- I frequently eat the kind of vegetarian Italian sausages that you are referring to, and I really enjoy them. They have pleasant, spicy flavor on their own, but there are also ways that you can enhance them and make them even better.

I like to eat vegetarian Italian sausages on Italian bread as sub sandwiches. Any condiment that you like goes great on this sandwich, but some of my favorites are ketchup, Italian dressing, and spicy mustard.

You can also use the vegetarian version just like you would any type of Italian sausage to make various traditional recipes. Put them with your favorite pasta and sauce to make a great Italian meal, or spread marinara sauce over them and serve them as the main course. As you make the transition to eating a vegetarian diet, I think that frozen vegetarian Italian sausages may become one of your favorite meat substitutes.


I have always loved the flavor of Italian sausage, but I am trying to give up eating meat and become a vegetarian. The problem for me is that the thought of vegetarian sausage doesn't sound good at all. I even tried to make it once with soy, and it was terrible. Has anyone ever tried the type of vegetarian Italian sausage that can be found in the freezer section? If so, what is it like and what are some tips for enhancing the flavor?

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