Americans wait an entire year for Thanksgiving to come around just so they can sink their teeth into stuffing. For us stuffing is as comforting as Cheerios or Apple Pie but it is also like lost treasure, a sacred dish reserved only for the 4th Thursday in November.
Living in Europe I know that Americans don’t have the best reputation internationally when it comes to food. How little do they know…….how good our food can be! Ok, so there are people who consider jello salad or sweet potatoes with marshmallow crust to be part of a Thanksgiving meal. To each their own. But the US has fantastic food and amazing food traditions. One thing that always surprises me when discussing Thanksgiving or Christmas with non-Americans is that they want to know what specific dishes we prepare for each holiday. In Europe, countries are smaller and traditions are deeper. Specific dishes are carved into holidays on a national level. In England families eat turkey on Christmas Day, followed by Christmas Pudding and Minced Pies. A French Christmas is not complete without a Buche de Noel and the Swedish have very strict guidelines about what should be included in a smorgasbord. I explain to my European friends that in the US the meals we eat at Christmas, and even Thanksgiving, depend not only on the region where you live but also your family history. If you are a family with Irish roots living in Louisiana your Thanksgiving meal will be different to an Italian family living in San Francisco which will be different to a Mayflower family living in Connecticut. We are a huge melting pot and our food reflects that. We do have one national holiday – Thanksgiving – which revolves strictly around food but even then the meals on our table are as varied as are our political opinions. One thing that does unite us in our Thanksgiving feasts is the presence of two dishes – turkey and stuffing. How we prepare them is influenced by region and family tradition.
As a child my favorite part of Thanksgiving was the stuffing. My family prepared it in New England fashion by adding apples and raisins which suited my sweet tooth just perfectly. In my twenties I had my first Southern stuffing (or dressing, as it is called in the South) made with cornbread and I thought I had died and gone to Heaven. It wasn’t Heaven, it was just Alabama. Same country, same holiday, same dish…. two very different ways.
I grew up with an Italian grandmother who was your quintessential turn of the century immigrant. She did not speak English and she lived in an Italian part of New York that allowed her such a luxury. Most of my memories of her involve food, but not Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was not her holiday, not her meal. It was the one time of year when she would put her feet up and travel north to Vermont to let her American grandchildren wait on her with their roast turkeys and pumpkin pies.
As an adult I’ve played around with my Thanksgiving repertoire and decided to leave the apples and raisins in Vermont. My stuffing reflects more my Italian roots, maybe to honor Grandma, or maybe just because I love sausage and cheese. Either way, it’s a good one. It’s stuffing like I remember it, just more indulgent and rich. One of my best friends here in Europe is Australian and last year she told her French boyfriend to “Try that – it’s amazing. I have no idea what it is – some cheesy, bready thing – but it’s the best part of Thanksgiving.”
I’m not going to say what is the best part of Thanksgiving but I will say that if you try this stuffing you may just agree with her……Print
Italian Sausage Stuffing
This stuffing is rich and indulgent. You can prepare it up to 4 hours before baking. I often drizzle a little bit of the turkey juices over the top before placing in the oven.
- Prep Time: 30 mins
- Cook Time: 35 mins
- Total Time: 1 hour 5 mins
- Yield: 8 servings 1x
- Category: Side Dish
- Cuisine: American
- 1 (1 lb/450g) loaf italian or other white bread, cut into cubes
- olive oil
- 2 lb (900g) italian sausage or chipolitas, casings removed and chopped
- 1 stick (8 Tablespoons or 125g) butter
- 3 large onions, diced
- 4 large celery sprigs, chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 large (or 5 medium) eggs
- 1 cup (236ml) heavy cream (creme liquide)
- 1/2 cup (118 ml) chicken stock
- 1 cup (3 oz or 85 g) grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- Preheat oven to 350F/180C and grease a large baking or pyrex dish and set aside.
- Toast the bread cubes in the oven for about 10 minutes, rotating the pan half way through, until bread is dried out. Place bread in a large mixing bowl.
- Heat one tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add half of the sausage. Brown sausage all over and transfer to the large bowl with the bread. Brown the rest of the sausage meat in another tablespoon of olive oil in the same way. Add to bowl. Discard the fat and wipe skillet clean with paper towel.
- Add the stick of butter to the skillet and melt. Add all the vegetables and cook until soft and golden. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add vegetables to bowl with bread and sausage.
- In a separate bowl mix the eggs with 3/4 cup of cream, stock and parmesan. Pour the egg mixture over the bread and sausage and add the parsley. Stir to combine.
- Pour the stuffing mixture into the greased baking dish. Drizzle with remaining 1/4 cup of cream.
- When turkey has finished roasting and is resting raise the temperature on the oven to 425F/220C.
- Cover the stuffing with foil and place in oven to bake 20 minutes.
- Remove foil and continue to bake until golden, about 15 minutes.