Bartolini Sausage

Laws are like sausages,” wrote Bismarck. “It’s better not to see them being made.” Well, I know little of the backroom dealings that are integral to our legislative process but today I intend to pull back the veil on sausage making, at least my family’s sausage making, that is. And why today? Because Zia taught me how to make sausage and today is her 89th birthday!!!

Allora, buon compleanno, Cara Zia! Cent’ anni e tanti baci!

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You'll have no beef with this burger!

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For as long as I can remember, the Bartolini Girls made sausage and served them at any meal. They’d cut up a few, add some beaten eggs, and we had a frittata for breakfast. As kids, many is the time we had sausages instead of hot dogs for lunch while, for supper, the sausages were either served alone, roasted with veggies & potatoes, or cooked in a tomato sauce and served with pasta instead of meatballs. Truth be told, we were much more likely to have sausage than we were to have meat balls.  Even after I moved away, Mom always made sure I had at least one container of frozen sausage patties to enjoy once I got home. And to this very day, whenever I make sausage, that first whiff of the seasoned ground pork is a trip on the Wayback Machine to my youth, watching Mom at work. Sure, there are many kinds of sausage available at the local groceries and butchers, not to mention the ethnic markets, but not a one reminds me of home. That’s reason enough for me to keep making these.

Now, for you sausage novices, there is at least 1 reason for Bismarck’s comment. You see, pork sausage requires a certain amount of fat, with some recipes calling for as much as 25% fat content. This recipe doesn’t come near that percentage but fat content is an issue. If you buy a cut of meat that’s too lean, like the pork loin I purchased early in my sausage making career, you will be very disappointed with the result. Look for a good, not too lean, pork butt roast when you make sausage. Even then, you may find that you need to add pork fat to the ground meat, although it wasn’t always this way. Years ago, pork  products had a much higher fat content and one rarely, if ever, needed to add more fat to the mix. Then, without warning to our fellow sausage makers, hog breeders began to develop a leaner, healthier product and the “Other White Meat” campaign was born. Unfortunately, getting rid of the fat got rid of a good deal of flavor, so much so that Mom and Zia quit making sausage altogether! I eventually convinced Zia to try making it again so that I could learn the recipe and, at first, I bought some extra pork belly fat to compensate for today’s leaner pork. It worked, I learned the recipe, and all was well — or should have been. One fateful day, I attempted to make sausage on my own and over-compensated with the fat. What a greasy mess! After that, I quit using additional fat and switched to pancetta. For a 4 lb. pork butt, I use about a half-pound of pancetta. Not only does it add some much-needed fat without going overboard, it brings a nice flavor to our sausage, as well. Most importantly, Zia approved the addition. In fact, the picture to the left was taken at her home and that’s pancetta on top of the pork. (See Notes below for a tip on grinding the meat.)

When you look over our recipe, you’ll quickly notice that there is a surprising lack of spices used but, because it’s so simple, it can easily be modified to suit your tastes. Mom didn’t like fennel seed in her sausage but I don’t think she’d mind if you added some to yours. She, also, didn’t like her sausage spicy but I’m sure she’d look the other way if you wanted to add some red pepper flakes or a couple shakes of cayenne pepper. And I bet Zia would find it interesting if you were to, say, add a little ground sage or marjoram to the ground meat. As for me, I’m a garlic lover and have been known to add a couple of cloves of minced garlic, in addition to the garlic-flavored wine. And if none of those suggestions hit their mark, check out Greg’s recipe at the Rufus Guide. Just remember that no matter what spices you use and how much, be sure to start with less than you think necessary and cook a small amount of pork for a taste test. You can always add more if need be.

Now, one more thing probably should be mentioned. Some may be wondering where the sausages are, being this is a posting about sausage making. Well, you can blame me for that.  As I mentioned, Mom always sent me home with a container of sausage patties after I visited and I grew to prefer them. Cooked on the grill, they are a great alternative to hamburgers. Not only that, but a patty or 2 can be easily crumbled for addition to a tomato sauce, meatloaf, pizza, or some other dish. Well, during one of our Sausage Days, I convinced Zia to just make patties that afternoon and we haven’t made a sausage since. If you’re a sausage person, however, feel free to stuff those casings!

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Bartolini Sausage Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs pork butt, coarsely ground
  • 1/2 lbs. pancetta, coarsely ground
  • 6 oz dry white wine
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt, more or less to taste
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper, more or less to taste

Directions

  1. At least 2 hours before beginning, place garlic and wine into a glass and set aside.
  2. Once garlic and wine have “married,” combine ground meats and spread in an even layer, about 2 inches thick, on a work surface.
  3. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Use your fingertips to create dimples in the meat’s surface.
  4. Strain the garlic from the wine and discard. Sprinkle the now flavored wine evenly across the meat. Begin mixing the meat until the seasoning and wine are evenly distributed. Recreate the meat layer and let rest for at least 30 minutes so that the flavors meld. (Caution should be taken if you are doing this on a hot Summer’s day or in a very warm room.)
  5. Once rested, make a mini-patty and cook it in a small frying pan. After tasting, you may need to adjust your seasoning. If you do add seasoning, let it rest 15 minutes before tasting again.
  6. Once the sausage meat has passed your taste tests, begin making patties. Place them in single layers on baking sheets and into the freezer. Once frozen, you can bag them or place them into containers until needed.

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Notes

Our preference is to grind the pork using the plate with the largest holes. This will create a coarse grind. When grinding meat for ravioli or cappelletti, use a smaller holed plate for a finer grind. No matter what size the end-result, you’ll find that your grinder, whether machine run or hand-cranked, will perform better and produce a more consistent result if the meat is cut into strips and partly frozen before you begin. Cut the pork butt into strips, layer them on baking sheets, and place them into the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes. Do not let them freeze solid or you will have to thaw them somewhat before grinding.

In a way, this recipe represents a milestone in the long and storied history of Bartolini sausage making. Never before were the wine, salt, and pepper measured so that they could be recorded in a recipe. It was always, “Grab some salt. Grab a little pepper. Put some wine in a glass. No, that’s too much. … ” To write this recipe, Zia worked her magic using wine and seasoning that I had pre-measured and placed in containers on her counter. When a mini-sausage patty passed her palate’s inspection, I simply measured the salt, pepper, and wine that remained. Still, as I cautioned earlier, start out with less spice than you think you’ll need. Be especially careful with the salt if you add pancetta to the ground pork, for its salt content can vary.

Just One Thing More

You didn’t think I would end this post without at least 1 picture of sausages, did you? This one is from the Bartolini Sausage Archives.

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110 thoughts on “Bartolini Sausage

  1. I made sausages once, adding pork to some of my grass fed beef.. Not a good experiment, not enough fat! They are still laying about in the freezer looking hungry and neglected. However, this time next year I will have me some big fat porkers, straight from the farmy, raised on Daisy’s milk and the local restaurant scraps and they will be fat! So THEN I will be back for this recipe. Give my love to Zia, what a wonderful birthday number!!.. c

    • Too bad about the failed experiment but we’ve all been there. I use my “rejects” in tomato sauce, either slicing ‘em up or removing them from their casings before browning like I would ground meat. A good tomato sauce can make anything taste better! Your porkers will make your sausages as near to perfection as possible. Major jealousy here! I’ll be sure to pass along your love to Zia but I’m sure she’ll read it for herself tonight. Thanks, Celi. :)

  2. I don’t know that I’ll ever attempt making my own sausages…I prefer to be blind to the process and just let Caputo’s do the work for me. LOL. Happy Birthday to your Zia! I hope that she has a fantastic day!!!! You picked an excellent way to honor her. :) Your homemade sausages look fantastic! They wouldn’t last long around here. ;)

    • Thanks, Kristy, from both of us. I love these patties and they do not last at all. The only reason I’ve still got some in my freezer is because I ran out of buns and each time I go to buy more, I convince myself to wait until my next trip to the store. I like the idea of having a few of these patties in the freezer for emergencies — just what would constitute a sausage emergency escapes me at the moment. :)

  3. I love link sausage and I particularly like Italian-style with fennel, garlic and red pepper flakes, but it would certainly be easier to make this without stuffing anything into casings! I’ve never had a sausage recipe, but we do have a meat grinder…

    • Especially for us novices, Sharyn, patties are the way to go and when grilled, they make a fantastic burger! I think you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make these patties. Give it a try! :)

  4. Firstly, Happy 89th Birthday to Zia – what an incredible milestone!
    Secondly, I love the simplicity of your sausage recipe – such a grand idea adding wine and so cool of you to share this special family recipe. :-) Mandy

    • Zia will be happy to see so many well-wishes and, on her behalf, thanks, Mandy. This sausage recipe, like so many of our family recipes, is really quite simple. In fact, Zia will often comment if she sees an Italian dish prepared with a long list of ingredients. That is not the way she & Mom were taught at all.

  5. Oh John, you’ve taken my down memory lane once again! I remember my parents making sausage, mostly right before the holidays. My father gave away the equipment after my mom passed; but I so can recall the flavor that I’ve never been able to find again. I love the idea for breakfast; even with lots of garlic and fennel!

    • It’s funny, Linda. It’s gotten so that, while I’m writing a recipe, I wonder if you’ve a similar experience. It really is something, isn’t it? As for your own family’s recipe, does anyone still have and follow it? I, for one, would love to see it and make it for Zia. We might even break out and stuff sausage casings in your family’s honor! :)

      • I would so forward this to you if I had it! My mother’s recipes are so vaguely written that only should could understand but I will look again to see if there are any notes. My father became a fabulous cook after she passed (funny he never cooked before!) and his recipes are all written half Italian/half English! You are so blessed to have Zia help you document your family recipes and I and all your other followers are so very lucky to be able to share in your memories and family recipes! Happy Birthday to Zia!

        • I know what you mean about the fragmented recipes, Linda. I have a bunch of Mom’s recipes that are a few notes with no name. I’ve tried googling the bits I have but don’t get anything of use returned. And, yes, Zia has been invaluable to me in this endeavor. Many of the family recipes would only be guestimates on my part. Being able to question her and, when possible, have her taste the dishes is heaven-sent.I spoke with her earlier this afternoon. Hearing that you all are wishing her happy birthday has really touched her. You all have made her very happy and I’m very grateful. Thank you, Linda, from the both of us.

  6. That looks great – have you ever tried warming the wine a bit to get a stronger infusion, or does just letting it sit at room temp make it nice and garlicky? (As you might have noticed from my garden, we’re kinda fond of the ‘stinking rose’ around our place…)
    Funny thing about that too-lean pork…customers complain loud and long about how dry the loin chops are, and yet, when they choose their cuts, they want the ones with the LEAST marbling. One woman I remember well, not only picked the leanest chops in the case, she had the butcher take every bit of cap-fat off. Two days later, she was back, and wanted a refund because they were so dry.
    Big Happy Birthday to your Zia…your Mama would be proud of you, too!

    • I’ve never thought to heat the wine but will next time just to see the effect. (I have the same love for the “stinking rose” that your family does.) I bet yo’ve literally dozens of stories from your days “behind the counter” and this one about lean pork is probably one of many such tales. People today just don’t “get it” that fat equals flavor. Thank you for Zia’s birthday wishes and for your kind words for me.

  7. Happy Birthday to Zia!

    Love the sausage recipe. It’s always good to have on hand. Made quite a few batches myself and this one is lovely – plus the tips are excellent!

    • Thanks, David, for thinking of Zia and, you’re so right. I really do like having sausage, even if patties, in my freezer. They can be used in so many ways and I usually hang on to that last one as if it’s some sort of frozen trophy.

  8. Buon Compleanno Zia!! Spero che sia una giornata meravigliosa :) Another fantastic recipe here, and what a great idea to make patties. I don´t have a mincer or machine for stuffing sausage casings, so this would be perfect. Reminds me of my dad who decided at the age of about 55 to get himself on a course to retrain and open a butcher´s shop. He was really good at it and did it for a few years, but his “star” product were these “blow your head off” spicy Calabrese sausages. It was great to see people´s faces when they tasted them and got a blast of chilli flavour….

    • Zia will be happy to read your birthday wishes tonight and thank you for them. I salute your Father for deciding at 55 to change the course of his life to become a butcher. Do you have his recipe? I’d love to give it a try, chilis and all. And do try and make the patties, Tanya. As you noted, you don’t need the equipment and I like the versatility that you get from the patties. Besides, given your love of spicy foods, it would be a shame to go without these “blow your head off” Calabrese sausages.

    • Thanks, Greg. Zia will love reading all of these birthday wishes tonight. Too funny. You like the idea of so few spices and, while I was making this last batch of patties with Zia, I kept thinking how much I would have liked to make some following your recipe. It has a great mix of spice that I’m sure I’d enjoy. When I do, I’ll be sure to let you know.

    • Thanks, Roger. As far as meat is concerned, I’m afraid we’re on opposite sides of the spectrum. I’ve tried to cut back — even went vegetarian one year — but meat is too ingrained in my dietary habits. And the thought of going without another of these sausage patty burgers? Quelle horreur! :)

  9. Happy birthday Zia! I have never made my own sausage before….maybe I need to give it a try sometime soon! In the meantime, those patties look incredible! That first picture has me drooling! :)

    • Sausage really isn’t at all hard to make, Christina, and if, like me, you opt for patties, it’s just about as simple as making your own hamburgers. I’ve tried making them with pre-packaged ground pork but, alas, the grind is too fine and the meat is too lean. The result is something that may taste all right but the “mouth feel” is so far off that you wouldn’t consider it sausage. And, on behalf of Zia, thanks for the birthday wishes!

  10. Hi John–The photo of your sausage is amazing. (possible double entendre intended!) Seriously, it looks like a magazine shot. By the way, this is the recipe I had hoped you would have when I asked you about Italian sausage on pizza. I just hadn’t thought about the need for a meat grinder though. But I know where you are if I ever get one…
    - Michael

    • Sorry I misunderstood your sausage question earlier, Michael. Making sausage is surprisingly simple, especially if you have a grinder. If not, you can use a food processor. Just be careful to not over grind the meat, especially if you intend to make sausages and not just patties. Meat that is too finely ground will usually pack the casings too tightly. The resulting sausage will not cook properly and may even burst before being fully cooked. And you’re right. I’m here if you’ve questions before, during, or after your sausage making. :)

  11. A very Happy Birthday to your Zia! A remarkable age! This sounds so very interesting! I must try this! My sister brings me fresh sausage, but there’s nothing like trying your hand at it! During the cold winter months I have a list of things to try – such as making my own pasta! Now I will add this, too! Thank you!

    • I’ve no doubt, Phyllis, that you’ll be able to conquer sausage making. You’re too good a cook not to. And I bet you’ll come up with a great combination of spices to use, as well. As for the pasta, once you make it for yourself, you’ll understand why we make it as often as we do. There’s simply nothing like a dish of homemade pasta! I just got off the phone with Zia and relayed everyone’s birthday wishes. You’ve all really touched her with your thoughtfulness. Thank you very much. :)

  12. I’m definitely a sausage novice, so thanks for the tips! Why is it always the case that getting rid of fat reduces the amount of flavor? Very inconvenient! You did such a wonderful job, I’m so impressed John. And a very, very happy birthday to Zia!! Sending hugs her way.

    • Thanks, Caroline! Looking at the things you’ve created over at your blog, making sausage will be a breeze for you. Don’t be intimidated and experiment. As I mentioned to Celi earlier, use your mistakes in tomato sauce. Even rejects make a good sauce for pasta. Zia will be reading these comments tonight or tomorrow morning and she’ll be pleased by your kindness. On her behalf, thank you, Caroline.

  13. This post brought back memories of my childhood when my mom used her grinder to make… all sort of stuff. It seems to be a dying art and I’m so glad you have recorded this for your family.. I would love to have a go at this one!
    Allora, buon compleanno, Zia! Cent’ anni e tanti baci!
    (Not sure what I just said, but was hoping it was “Happy Birthday, Zia!”

    • I wish I could take credit for recording this recipe for Posterity but, the truth is, I love my family’s sausage & making it myself was the only way I would get some. :) Roughly translated, I said, “Well then, happy birthday, Dear Zia. 100 years and many kisses!” 100 years is a traditional toast, in effect wishing the birthday boy or girl live to be a hundred. I spoke with her a short while ago. She was surprised and elated that so many sent her birthday wishes. Thank you for your kindness!

  14. I never realized it was so simple to make your own sausage! Great idea with the garlic infused wine… sounds like an amazing addition. And thank you for the tip about partially freezing the meat, and cutting it in strips, before putting it through the grinder. I’ll have to try that next time. It will probably be easier than working with my squishy chunks of meat :)

    • Ah, Stefanie, so you know about “squishy chunks of meat.” I didn’t want to get all technical :) in the post but yes, partly freezing your meat gets rid of that annoying problem. And, since cheaper and more fatty meats are used, being a tad frozen helps to handle the fat better, too. Sausage making is quite simple, especially if you make patties. For me, it’s the only way to go!

  15. I’ve always wanted to make my own home made sausages, John, and I am sure glad I read this post because for sure I would have cut the fat to the detriment! I also love a coarse grind! My mom used to have a Moulinex and even before that it was a hand grinder! I wish i had kept either one. Do you ever smoke your sausages?

    • Oh, Eva, I remember the hand grinder! Mom upgraded to an electric grinder that I use today for no other reason than nostalgia. And, yes, you definitely need fat for sausage that has the right texture and “mouth feel.” I haven’t a smoker — yet :) — but I’m told that my family, back before I was around, used to take these sausages and hang them in an unheated back porch in late Fall and early Winter to dry them. It couldn’t be done any other time because it was either too warm or too cold. They then sliced them as one would salami or any other hard sausage. I don’t have a room sufficiently cold nor dry enough to attempt that. But if I did …

      • I just bought JT a cold smoker that simply attaches to your grill http://www.smokedaddyinc.com/smokers.htm. We didn’t even have to drill holes; it fits perfectly to our Weber. We have used it several times and can vouch that it is excellent. You can either buy the wood pellets from them or just use the normal hardware store variety (or you can overspend and buy them at Williams Sonoma!) Best part is, not expensive! And it takes up such little space. I bought the 8″ and it is enough to properly smoke a 5lb salmon.

        • Thank you so much, Eva, for the info. I will certainly check them out. I love Williams-Sonoma and do quite a bit of shopping there — and buy the item(s) somewhere else at a cheaper price. :)

    • I spoke with Zia earlier and passed along everyone’s well wishes. She’s going to read them for herself, probably tomorrow morning. On her behalf, Giovanna, thank you for your thoughtfulness. :)

  16. I think it is just exceptional, and I’m a bit envious :-), that your family has such a strong tradition of sharing the art of cooking and experiencing food. My cousin returns to Italy every year to spend time with her husband’s family–and she returns with rich stories of hospitality and family meals that are unparalleled. I’m your vegetarian reader, but I still admire! Debra

    • Thank you, Debra, for your kind words. Food and shared meals was such an important part of our families’ life. It wasn’t until I was well-grown and on my own that I realized how special it all was — and still is, for that matter. And you are not alone; I’ve a few vegetarian readers. Because of one of them, a dear friend, I try to consider vegetarian alternatives to each dish, whenever possible. Unfortunately for you guys, there’s little substitution possible with pork sausage. I’ll try to do better next time. :)

    • You know, there was a time when I would have thought the same thing. Then, I began to realize that if I didn’t learn to cook these family recipes, I’d never taste them again. Talk about a wake-up call!

    • And on behalf of Zia — who is probably reading all of these wonderful birthday wishes about now — thank you for your thoughtfulness, not to mention my own thanks for your kind words, not just today, but whenever you visit.

  17. A Happy Birthday wish for Zia a day late. Thank you for the recipe from the two of you and all of the tips. You are so right about the texture of sausage. My husband didn’t like the sausage we got from one Italian market because he said it was ground too fine and didn’t have enough fat. We didn’t buy from them anymore. He will have fun trying your recipe.

    • You should have seen some of my early sausage making attempts, Karen. Meat too lean, ground too fine, over salted, and packed too tight. What a travesty! But, with practice, and a very patient Aunt, I make it all of the time now. And with so few spices, this recipe can easily be adapted to your own tastes. Your husband should have no problems making his own. And on Zia’s behalf, thank you for the birthday wishes!

  18. First of all, I’ve been so busy with work that I wanted to save this post for when I could enjoy reading it, as your posts are always so enjoyable, and when I saw the word “sausage,” well, it deserved focused attention. Secondly, but really firstly, a very Happy belated Birthday to Zia!!! I hope she had a super special day and that she’s still celebrating. I laughed out loud over the Sherman Peabody Wayback Machine…had totally forgotten about that and thanks for the chuckle! I’ve only made sausage once and it was way too lean…I guess we’re all programmed to start there aren’t we? I love the idea of using the pork butt and the pancetta. Add the garlic, wine and I’ll probably spice it up…it’s gotta be great…can’t wait to try!

    • Glad you enjoyed the Wayback Machine. I’m a Rocky & Bullwinkle Show fan and still laugh as if I’m seeing the episodes and segments for the 1st time. We’ve all been sold that fat is bad when, in reality, that’s where all the flavor is. As in everything else, moderation is the key. Thank you for Zia’s birthday wishes and for your kind words about this blog. Let me know how your sausage making goes. :)

  19. I supposed to be cutting back on my gluttonous consumption after Turkey Day and post something about sausage goodness and a burger that is to die for? You’re a very bad friend. :-)

    Oh I the Bismarck quote wasn’t for the entertainment of all the historians like me?

    • In the sane part of the World, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the High Holy Days of Gluttony, a 5 week period that ends on January 2nd of the following year. Just because you’ve chosen to rebel & go down a different path doesn’t mean that the rest of us have to follow. As for the quote, I’m just trying to increase my blog’s hits, hoping to capture a bit of all of that North Dakota traffic.

    • Thank you, Geni. I’ve really grown to love these patties. They’re so much more versatile than their sausage counterparts and, not so coincidentally, so much easier to make.

    • I felt that a sausage recipe wouldn’t be for everyone, for a number of reasons. You, nevertheless, stopped by to comment and I appreciate that, Sawsan. And on behalf of Zia, thank you for the birthday wishes.

  20. Sent the recipe and post to my son’s father-in-law who makes sausage in Hardy VA.
    When I was young and my dad was not home for dinner, my mother fired up a waffle maker with a cloth-covered cord, heated real maple syrup, made homemade applesauce and fried up sausage patties from the butcher. Breakfast for dinner was a real treat. As I remember my dad didn’t eat pork cause it didn’t agree with him. When he wasn’t at the table, my mother took the opportunity to serve it to us. Thanks for the good memory.

    • Making sausage is not a complicated process at all, especially if, like me, you make patties and skip the casings. Once you get the right fat content and grind for your palate, the rest is really easy. Our recipe is quite basic and definitely plays well with other herbs and spices. Good luck!

  21. This post spreads your passion and love of heritage traditions…I share with you this passion of the ‘simple’ Italian recipes and the memories of my Nonna and Nonno down in the ‘stalla’ making sausages!

    • You, Yvette, know better than many where I’m coming from. You have your memories of your Grandparents making sausage; I’ve mine of Mom & Zia doing the same, as well as many other dishes. I just couldn’t sit and watch their recipes fall by the wayside. I think Mom would be thrilled to hear how well-received her dishes are. I know Zia is.

  22. Wow! I had never thought of making my own sausages but I guess that really would give you peace of mind because you would know exactly what’s in them. These look like a great recipe with the pancetta in them.

    • Making sausage is one of those things that, once you get started, really isn’t nearly as daunting as one would expect. Start with a relatively small amount of pork and play with the spices until you find the right mix for you and your family. And making patties rather than sausage links makes experimentation so much easier. Once you do it, I can guarantee you’ll keep a supply of sausage or patties in your freezer. They’re so convenient for a quick meal.

  23. I am *so* going to use this recipe. I’ve always loved true natural-cased sausages, but I love a good seasoned ground meat patty enough that I’d never dream of making the case for casing sausages myself, so never fear, this is the perfect way to go. And huzzahs to you for adding the right tasty fat back in. I wonder how the ‘retro-miracle’ of such flavor piggies as spa-raised Berkshires or heroic Mangalitsas would affect the making of such food–not that I would have any easy access to such luxury meats here, just curious. Pancetta is surely an ideal substitute!

    • Oh, how I’d love to add some fat back from a Berkshire or Mangalitsa to the mix! Pancetta is far more available and far easier on the budget. Our culture has become so fat-obsessed and, as a result, our food has become salt & sugar-saturated to make up for the loss of flavor. Moderation. When will we ever learn?

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  26. John, this is incredible! I know I will never prepare my own sausage. I wish I could eat that sandwich right now! The picture is absolutely gorgeous!!

    • Thank you, Judy, but why do you say you won’t be making sausage? You needn’t have any special equipment, especially if you make patties like I’ve convinced Zia to do. You can use a food processor to grind a pork shoulder butt. Just pulse if for a couple seconds at a time until the meat is grond but still fairly chunky. Season it as you like, make patties, and freeze them. Just be sure to choose a fatty pork butt and trim the gristle but keep the fat. Sausage needs fat. I augment the meat with pancetta. It adds both fat and flavor. It really is that easy, Judy. You’ll be amazed. And a sausage burger is a mighty fine burger! :)

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  28. Another great post! And thanks for solving somewhat of mystery for me: for me sausage has always been a cylindrically-shaped casing stuffed with meat, but in Italy the word “salsiccia” is used for just the meat. I always thought one would have to buy a sausage and then take the meat out of the casing. Silly isn’t it? In my defense I cam say that we *never* had sausage growing up, because that was poor quality and too fatty according to my parents. We never had meatballs either for the same reason.
    I’m going to make risotto con salsiccia soon and I’m going to use your Zia’s recipe for the salsiccia! :-)

    • My family always made salsiccia in casings. I remember, as a little boy, being given a casing as a balloon. It was Mom’s way of keeping me entertained and out of her way while she ground the meat and filled the casings.
      I’ve always had trouble filling the casings. Too little or too much filling and the sausages won’t cook properly. Some 10 years ago, I gave up and started making patties instead. They are so much more convenient, for both storage and use. A few years ago, I convinced my Zia to try making patties instead. “Just once,” I asked her. She hasn’t filled a sausage link since. :)
      Zia will be happy to hear you’re going to try the family recipe. Keep this up and we’ll make you an honorary Bartolini.

      • I actually fried up some leftover ravioli stuffing of the “Bartolini” recipe I made for Conor. I shaped it into a patty and had it as a snack for lunch with some bread. It was outstanding! Have you ever tried that?

  29. PS I know just what you mean about lean pork. This is what went slightly wrong with my ‘Mexican’ bean stew as well. To make it worse, also the pancetta available here is often actually coppapancetta, with coppa in the center to make it leaner…

    • So many people here equate fat with bad, so, everything is fat-free. What they don’t realize is that the companies are loading their products with salt and some form of sugar to give them the flavor that fat did. In my opinion, it is better to have one full-fat sausage than 6 low-fat links.

      • It is a shame that beef or pork with proper marbling is now a luxury item at outrageous prices.
        And I definitely agree with you: I’d rather eat less of something with more fat and thus taste than eat more of something skinny and flavorless!

  30. Question: I came here looking for the Bartplini recipe for polpette. You see, my Italian friend Fabio is coming over for cena on Friday and I thought it would be nice to cook something his nonna used to cook for him. He said polpette with lemon, and I came here to use your recipe as a starting point. Care to tell me what went in your polpette, even though you didn’t have them often? Much appreciated!

    • I’ve yet to past a recipe for polpette, Stefan, mainly because I never found Mom’s. The only recipe I have is the one for polpettine that are served in soup. They’re small and made with veal and lemon zest. You can see the recipe HERE.
      I will be calling Zia in the next day or two. I’ll ask about her recipe. I hope you don’t mind waiting a couple days.

      • The recipe for the polpettine reminds me a bit of the recipe for the ravioli stuffing (lemon zest, nutmeg, and pecorino as the main flavors). My friend is coming over on Friday, so if you don’t talk to Zia before then (i.e. Thursday in Chicago), I think I’ll make something based on the polpettine recipe but larger. Thanks!

        • I spoke with my Zia this afternoon. She’s visiting one of her Sons. She has no recipe for polpette and she agrees with me that my Mom didn’t either. When I asked, she said, “We used some veal, a little pork, bread crumbs, …” I asked for the recipe and she said they never made them often enough to warrant writing it down. Since she has no recollection of ingredient amounts, you’d be better off with someone else’s recipe. or using the ravioli filling. Sorry.

          • Since there was no Bartolini recipe to use, I ended up buying some ground veal and then asking my friend what he remembered. He remembered lemon, parsley, and parmigiano, so that’s what I used. I made them on the spot, which impressed the diners ;-)

  31. Ages ago, hubby got me the Kitchenaid attachment for making sausages…like, 12 years ago! And as you may have guessed, I never made them. Much to hubby’s disappointment of course. Well, now I’ll just have to make them, even if in a patty shape! Thanks John!

    • I think you’ll love the patties, Lidia. Not only are the easier to make than the links but they’re easier to store, as well. You can stack a few patties, separated by some wax paper, and freeze them, enabling you to pull out as many as you need. It’s not easy with links. They’re easier to add to recipes, as well. Best of all, they make a mean burger when grilled. :)

  32. Well John, I did indeed make these yummy link-free sausages. How simple was that? :-) Can’t wait to show what I’ve done with them!

    • Yay! You sound like my Zia the first time I told her we didn’t need casings. 15 minutes later we had all the patties made and packed into the freezer — and we never made links again. I’m looking forward to the recipes to come, Lidia. ;)

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  36. Love how you did the measuring of Zia’s hand picked sizes, as she probalbly wouldn’t even have noticed. I have the same problem, people ask me for my recipes, and I start to feel sort of ‘claustrophobic’ when having to measure what I feel is just intuition, based on how everything looks and smells and even on the season. Great way of writing you have, it is like ‘living’ inside your family kitchen.

    • Thanks you so much! That’s such a nice compliment to write. I wish I’d thought of weighing ingredients when my poor Mom was alive. I drove her crazy asking for measurements that were more specific than “a handful of” this or “a little of” that. Now, I share your “claustrophobia”. I’ve never measured my own recipes and doing so for the blog is not an easy task. I end up making the recipe a few times before it’s posted just to make sure I’ve got it right. I’d love to write a recipe with “a little of” and “a handful of” but I think Mom would send a lightning bolt my way. :)

  37. Pingback: We’re Celebrating St. Joseph’s Feast Day with a Sicilian Strata | from the Bartolini kitchens

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