For many of us, cooking with grandma and/or grandpa, in person or in memory, is a quintessential part of Thanksgiving. Whether you pack into the car to drive with your family, fly into their town, or have a group FaceTime to share the day’s sentiments, giving thanks together is special. And beyond the shared family time, Thanksgiving is the holiday marked by a feast! A meal with turkey, cranberry sauce, potatoes, green beans, and the best dish around — stuffing. This stuffing recipe is extra special as it’s straight from the kitchen of my grandpa, Orazio. It’s a recipe my great grandma made and my grandparents continued to make as they grew their family, with my grandpa perfecting it into what it is today (the best stuffing ever!). It’s now my mom’s most requested dish and a staple on our family’s Thanksgiving (and Christmas) table.
In an effort to get this recipe up before the holiday with many interested in the dish, we're sharing without photos, but plan to update this post as soon as we have them.
Note: Before you start step 1, if you have time you can leave the bread out overnight and then decrease the oven time. Either way at the end of step 1, the bread shouldn't have any moisture. If you have stale bread, now is the time to use it!
2 loaves of rustic sourdough bread, cubed
2 lbs. mild pork Italian sausage, ground or removed from casing (or chicken sausage*)
2 lbs. spicy pork Italian sausage, ground or removed from casing (or chicken sausage*)
2 medium sized yellow onions, roughly chopped
8 cloves of garlic, minced
8 ribs of celery, roughly chopped
2 pints of whole grape tomatoes (a mix of colors, like red and orange)
¼ - ½ cup Parmesan Reggiano cheese, finely grated
1 bunch Italian parsley, roughly chopped
1 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 cup mixed fresh herbs: rosemary, sage, marjoram, finely chopped
Handful of full herb leaves: fresh sage, rosemary, marjoram
Olive oil spray
*If using chicken instead of pork, the meat will come out a little drier, so you’ll want to incorporate olive oil (rather than spray) when cooking the sausage.
Place cubed bread on a dry baking sheet and bake at 175°F or lower for a couple of hours. This will dry the bread into the texture of a crouton.
Finely chop the herbs to fill about 1 cup together. Set aside.
When dried out, remove bread cubes from the oven and spray with olive oil, enough to allow the herbs to stick. In a bowl, toss bread cubes with the herbs, salt, and pepper. Once coated in the herb, salt, and pepper mixture, return cubes to the baking sheet and continue to bake on the same low temperature (175°F). Regularly check to be sure the herbs and bread don't burn.
While the bread cubes continue to cook, start the sausage. Lightly coat a large frying pan with olive oil spray and set on medium heat. Place all of the sausage (without casing) into the pan. Cook meat thoroughly, breaking it up as needed, but should still have sizable chunks. Mild and spicy can be cooked together or separately.
Once meat is cooked, use a straining spoon to remove oils from the meat and place into a separate bowl. Set aside.
Lower the pan flame, and let the oil sit. Separately, mince the cloves of garlic and roughly chop the bunch of parsley and the onions.
Add onions and garlic to the oil pan, and sauté until onions are clear and garlic is cooked. Then, toss in parsley and a couple pinches of salt.
Drain the onion, garlic, parsley mixture to remove any excess oil. Then, add this mixture to the meat bowl and mix all together well. Set aside.
Roughly chop celery. Place into a separate bowl and add the tomatoes. Roughly chop 1 cup fresh basil, add to the same bowl.
Remove herbed bread cubes from the oven and allow to cool. Once cooled, add bread cubes, celery, tomatoes, basil, and meat mixture into a large bowl. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder to taste. Mix well. Then, add ¼ - ½ cup Parmesan Reggiano cheese, and full leaves of fresh sage, rosemary, and marjoram, and toss lightly.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Add the now completely mixed stuffing into a deep ~2 inch glass baking pan. A disposable tin pan works, but line with parchment paper to avoid cooking on aluminum, as it’s not always the healthiest option. Optional: In a small, oven safe bowl, cook a sample of the stuffing to determine if you’d like to add any more cheese or seasoning.
Cover the stuffing with parchment paper and layer with tinfoil on top. The parchment paper should be under the tin foil, again to not cook with aluminum touching the food. Once oven reaches 350°F, place the stuffing inside and cook for about 30 minutes. When lightly browned and looking good, remove from oven and serve! Any extras can be saved in the freezer.
Notes: You can prep a lot of this dish ahead of time or even make it a day or two before (without the final step of cooking in the oven), and that will allow all the flavors to marry together. If you would prefer not to use mild and spicy sausage, you can use one or the other, or this recipe can also be made with your favorite ground meat to make it your own.
My family prefers stuffing that’s a bit drier, but if needed, after about 20 mins of cooking, remove the stuffing from oven and toss. If it looks too dry for your liking, drizzle and mix a bit of chicken stock on top to moisten. Cover again and place back into the oven to continue to cook for the remaining 10 minutes.
Sometimes we also broil at the end for a crunchy finish. Or, you can even add pine nuts on top, extra cheese, or no tomatoes. My family likes a more meaty stuffing, but some prefer meat to bread ratio about 50/50, so add more bread cubes if you’d like, or even spice it up with crushed red pepper, or mix Parmesan Reggiano with Pecorino Romano. It’s your stuffing to enjoy, from our family to yours!
Share your stuffing creation with us on Instagram using #mollymymag and follow @mollymymag for photos of Molly's celebration.
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