Italian sausage, with its savory aroma and rich, meaty flavor, has a special place in the hearts of food enthusiasts. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a novice in the kitchen, learning how to cook Italian sausage can open up a world of delicious possibilities. Learn not only what Italian sausage is and whether it’s spicy but get ideas on what delightful dishes pair perfectly with this flavorful sausage.
What is Italian sausage?
Italian sausage is a beloved sausage variety known for its bold flavors and versatility. It is typically made from ground pork mixed with a combination of seasonings, including fennel seeds, garlic, paprika and red pepper flakes. This flavorful blend gives it a distinct taste that sets it apart from other sausages.
The sausages tend to be about the size of a bratwurst in terms of diameter and length. Some sausages are far longer like chorizo, depending on how and where it was prepared.
Italian sausages usually come in natural casings made from animal intestines. These casings help the sausage maintain its shape and provide a satisfying snap when cooked. Don’t let this freak you out, as this is not uncommon in other sausages you regularly eat already.
Is Italian sausage spicy?
One of the most common questions about Italian sausage is whether it’s spicy. The answer? It depends on the type you choose.
There are two main types of Italian sausage: sweet and hot. Sweet Italian sausage is seasoned with milder herbs, while hot Italian sausage gets its fiery kick from red pepper flakes. The choice between the two depends on your heat tolerance and personal taste.
How should I cook Italian sausage?
Cooking Italian sausage is a straightforward process that yields flavorful results. Depending on how you plan to use it, there are different methods that best fit your needs.
“I almost always have some Italian sausage in the refrigerator because it’s such an easy way to add meaty flavor to so many different meals. Cook it in some olive oil or vegetable oil first. I usually crumble it into a skillet, breaking it into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon while it cooks. Drain the sausage on paper towels to get rid of excess oil then add it to your dish. Another favorite use is to add whole Italian sausage links to sheet pan dinners.”— Rebecca Blackwell, A Little and A Lot
Heat a skillet over medium to high heat. Depending on how many Italian sausages you plan to cook, add one to two tablespoons of olive oil. Place the Italian sausages in the skillet and cook them for about 5 to 7 minutes per side or until they’re browned and cooked through.
Pan-frying works well for whether you plan to keep the links whole, cut them into slices or even remove the sausage from its casing and crumble it as you cook it.
Italian sausage is a great change from your usual hot dogs or brats on a bun, as well.
Preheat your grill to medium to high heat. Grill the sausages for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, turning them occasionally, until they’re cooked thoroughly and have those enticing grill marks.
Preheat your oven to 375 F or 190 C. Place the sausages on a baking sheet and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, turning them once halfway through the cooking time.
This is a great way to enjoy a sheet pan dinner with your favorite veggies that you can roast alongside the Italian sausage.
Note that boiling is a bit of a misnomer, as you want to turn the heat of the water down once you add the sausage. This method is particularly useful when you plan to use the sausages in soups or stews.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the sausages and let them simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. You generally want to keep the links whole and slice them after they have simmered to ensure they don’t dry out.
What do I serve with Italian sausage?
Italian sausage is a versatile ingredient that can elevate numerous dishes. Enjoy them not just as a sausage by itself, but also combine them into recipes and allow the flavors to complement your dish.
“My favorite use for Italian sausage is in pasta sauce. Every Christmas the Italian side of my family makes a big pot of homemade marinara, my grandmother’s meatball recipe and Italian sausage to serve with stuffed shells. The sausage adds a delicious note of fennel to the sauce that I love.”— Gen La Rocca, Two Cloves Kitchen
- Spaghetti and sausage: Create a classic Italian pasta dish by sautéing Italian sausage with garlic, onions and tomatoes. Toss it with cooked spaghetti and finish with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
- Sausage and peppers: Sauté sliced Italian sausage with bell peppers and onions for a hearty and flavorful sandwich. Serve it over rice if you prefer a gluten-free option.
- Pizza toppings: Crumbled Italian sausage is a fantastic
pizzatopping. Spread it over your pizza dough along with your favorite sauce, cheese and veggies. Be sure to brown and crumble your sausage before you add it to your pizza. This ensures it’s both safe to eat and that you won’t have fat draining onto your pizzaas it cooks.
- Soup and stew: Add Italian sausage to soups and stews for an extra burst of flavor. It pairs exceptionally well with ingredients like beans, kale and potatoes.
- Frittata: Make a savory frittata by mixing Italian sausage with eggs, cheese and veggies. Bake until it’s golden and bubbling. You can also keep it simple and add the crumbled Italian sausage to scrambled eggs. Like with the
pizzatopping, be sure you cook and drain it first.
Italian sausage is a culinary gem that adds depth and flavor to a wide range of dishes. Whether you prefer it sweet or spicy, knowing how to cook Italian sausage opens up a world of delicious possibilities in your kitchen. Roll up your sleeves, get creative and savor the delightful taste of Italian sausage in your favorite recipes.
Michelle Price is a food and travel writer at Honest and Truly who almost has an empty nest. She loves to provide both the inspiration and the confidence you need to help get you into the kitchen and on the road to enjoy new flavors and experiences.