There is a little bit of back story to this sausage filling recipe. It was given to me for our first 'Thanksgiving as married people' by my super sweet Mother-in-Law - at the
insistencerequest of my husband. You see, while were were dating, most years he went home to see his family for Thanksgiving (they are all from Deleware/Pennsylvania). So our first Thanksgiving being married, was kind of our first Thanksgiving. Period.
We were going to go over to my parent's house and while he and my family adore each other, I knew this Thanksgiving would be a change for him. I wanted to have a dish there that was traditional from his family. It was very Pilgrim-y of me.
His mom gave me this recipe for her Sausage Bread Filling, complete with a sweet little note on the back, which I still have. I guard it with my life and pull it out every year to double check the recipe. Even though I could make this in my sleep by now, I wouldn't dare get overly confident and not consult the recipe card, just to wind up buying the wrong type of bread crumbs (not that that ever happened to me before or anything). There are few recipes that I follow exactly as written, but this is one of them. We take our sausage filling seriously around here, y'all.
The whole sausage-in-stuffing thing was foreign to me. We had never put meat in our stuffing, and frankly, calling it 'filling' always makes me smile, too. What in the world is 'filling'? Ohhh, you mean stuffing. Gotcha. Thanks to the Italian sausage, this stuffing has an incredibly flavorful and meaty texture. I am in love with it and can not imagine my Thanksgivings without it. As a bonus it makes my husband crazy happy. That's a win-win situation.
A couple of notes for making this sausage filling:
- I use Italian sausage, 1lb of sweet (or mild) and 1lb of hot (spicy). It gives the filling an intense sausage flavor with a bit of a kick.
- My MIL told me to use Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Bread Cubes (red package), and gosh darn it, I would never even dream of using anything else. In my opinion, it's the cubes that make the difference. Pepperidge Farm used to make 14oz bags of bread cubes (in the olden days when I was first given this recipe. You know, way back in 2005), but now, just like most things, the packages have gotten smaller. They are now about 12oz. I usually buy two to make sure I have the entire 14oz, and then use the extra for other recipes later. You can use your discretion on this point. **note: They still make 14oz bags of regular Herb Seasoned Stuffing (not cubed). I recommend the cubes.
- The recipe calls for walnuts. As I've said before, I typically leave out nuts due to the Baby's peanut allergy, but because of the spice in the sausage, she doesn't grove on this dish anyway, so for this recipe, I leave the nuts in. Again, use your discretion.
- Add your broth slowly. I usually add one cup at a time then stir and assess the texture. One of my favorite characteristics of this sausage filling is that it is a bit on the dryer side. I usually end up using a little less than 3 cups of broth when making mine. But again, mix in a bit of broth at a time, and mix to your desired consistency.
Next week, I will be sharing a few more savory Thanksgiving sides and then get on with some desserts. You can't have Thanksgiving without a few sweets, right? Right.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Sausage Bread Filling
1 14 oz bag of Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Bread Cubes (or 1 12oz bag and a bit more)
1 lb of ground sweet Italian sausage
1 lb of ground hot Italian sausage
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
2 Tablespoons of butter, divided
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of walnuts, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Up to 3 cups of chicken/turkey stock (depending on your desired consistency)
Preheat oven to 375°
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add sausage. Brown the sausage until it’s cooked through, using a wooden spoon to break it into small pieces. Drain any extra fat and transfer cooked sausage to a large bowl and set aside.
In the same skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon of butter and olive oil together. Add celery, onions and garlic and sauté until translucent. Transfer to bowl with sausage and set aside.
In a small skillet, melt the remaining Tablespoon of butter over low heat and sauté walnuts until fragrant, being careful not to burn them. Transfer to bowl with sausage along with bread cubes.
Using a large spoon, mix well to incorporate all ingredients, and season with salt and pepper. Adding one cup at a time, slowing pour in chicken/turkey stock. Mix well after each cup to test consistency. If you prefer a drying stuffing (which I do) add less stock, if you prefer a more moist stuffing, add a bit more stock. I usually end up using a little less than 3 cups of stock.
Transfer mixture into a 2 quart casserole dish. Cover and bake for 1 hour.