Grilled Italian Sausage Sandwiches
Grilled Italian sausage sandwiches are a popular choice at summer festivals around the country. The hot griddle caramelizes slices of sweet onions and green bell peppers while the sausages cook until their casings are browned and crispy. The meat and vegetables are placed on split rolls and eaten out of hand releasing a flood of spicy juices, usually directly onto the diner’s chin and shirt!
However, Italian sausage can be used many delicious ways beyond sandwiches.
In traditional Italian cooking, link sausages are used to flavor Sunday sauce, served as a meat course, or as part of a hearty pasta dish. The sausage meat may also be crumbled in lasagna filling, as a pizza topping, used to flavor meatballs, or mixed into a frittata (Italian omelet).
Sausages are generally seen in links, although bulk sausage is commonly available. Bulk sausage is less attractive, but cooks more quickly and evenly and the flavor can be spread through a dish in a more uniform way.
The links are popular for eating out of hand, however are also more attractive in dishes where they will be presented whole. Sausage links are made by stuffing ground sausage meat into long casings. The most popular style of sausage casings are made from salt preserved pork intestines, but there are several other options available such as natural sheep casings on Amazon.
Make Your Own Sausage
Of course, the best way to guarantee that your sausage will be fresh is to make it yourself. Making homemade sausage at home with a meat grinder is simple, though filling the casings is time consuming. You can make several pounds at a time and freeze the leftovers. Uncooked sausage will retain its full flavor in your freezer for one to two months and as long as three months if cooked before freezing.
Italian sausage is traditionally from ground pork and seasoned with anise or fennel. These fresh sausages can be either mildly spiced (generally referred to as “sweet”) or spicy, depending on the intended purpose. To lower the fat content, some people prefer to use turkey or chicken.
The pork butt is considered an ideal cut of meat for making sausage, though some recipes call for different cuts or additional pork fat. Putting the meat into the freezer for a short time before putting through the meat grinder will improve the texture of the final product and is often required for proper use of a grinder to prevent caking.
Italian sausage made with pork can be flavored many ways. Adding the seasonings for pasta sauces directly to the meat, such as pesto, result in sausages that are classic Italian without any of the mess of sauce. Mixing in broccoli raab, cheese and parsley, or onions and peppers are also delicious with pork sausage.
For poultry sausages, boneless white meat may end up dry if used by itself. Adding fruit or vegetables to the meat grinder will give the sausages more moisture and widen the range of flavors. Apple is a common pairing with poultry, but stone fruits and tropical fruits are also popular.
Italian sausages are national favorites and for good reason. These sausages are delicious, easy to prepare and have infinite flavor variations. Don’t be intimidated by the thought of making them from scratch. They’re easy and worth the effort.