This sage and sausage stuffing created by my mother makes Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving to me. The buttery stuffing morsels, the zip of Italian sausage, the crunch of the water chestnuts and the earthy flavor of sage, it all smells and tastes just like Thanksgiving should in my mind.
Growing up, my mom would make the stuffing first thing in the morning before she started on any other dishes. She always made at least two large dishes. I remember sitting next to her on a stool, in the kitchen helping her carefully add each ingredient. More than likely, my job would be to cut the onions and, like clockwork, every year I would happily oblige until half way through when my eyes would start burning and watering as I so carefully tried to finish the onion. Once I was through the pain, and all the other ingredients were chopped, we would carefully combine them in a giant silver-mixing bowl.
The key, you see, is to not over mixing the stuffing. Just lightly stirring it from the bottom-up as you add the scalded milk, so that things get nice and mixed but don’t end up soggy. Oh, and carefully add the salt. Not too much and taste it while you add. Every Thanksgiving, as long as I can I remember this was the mantra in our kitchen on Thanksgiving, “don’t over mix the stuffing and don’t over salt”. It’s funny the things you remember. Since making Thanksgiving on my own, I have only once over mixed the stuffing, and man, I will never forget again.
Once the stuffing was mixed, it would go out to the garage into the old fridge my parents kept. It would sit in the casserole dishes covered by plastic, until it was time for it to take its turn in the oven. All day as we were prepping the rest of our Thanksgiving feast my brother and I would scurry out to the garage in the freezing cold, with a small ramekin and fill it with the stuffing mixture. This stuffing just tastes so wonderful, hot or cold, that it seemed only necessary to steal a few bits here and there.
Now when I make this in our home, it feels like I’m standing in the kitchen right beside my mom smiling and laughing on Thanksgiving Day. This stuffing is what makes Thanksgiving, feel like Thanksgiving no matter how far away from our family we may be.
Sage and Sausage Stuffing
Makes one 9x11 pan
8 tbsp. butter (1 stick)
2 1/2 cups milk (skim is fine)
1 bag Pepperidge Farm Stuffing Mix (12 oz.)
2-4 spicy Italian sausage links
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4-6 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
1 can water chestnuts, chopped
1-2 tsp. fresh sage, chopped
To Make Thanksgiving Sausage Stuffing
Preheat oven to 350° degrees.
In a saucepan over medium to low heat, scald the milk and butter until it simmering. Then set aside.
While heating milk and butter fry up the sausage. Slice down the casing of the sausage and crumble into frying pan. Cook on medium heat until just brown and set aside.
Chop onions, celery, sage and water chestnuts. In a large bowl add stuffing mix, sausage and all chopped ingredients.
Then using a third of a cup, (thirds) slowly add the milk/butter mixture, and carefully toss. until all incorporated. DO NOT OVER STIR/TOSS or it will be very mushy. It should have a fluffy appearance. We probably added 1 1/3 cups of the milk mixture. Don’t be worried if you don’t use all the milk mixture, you probably won’t need it all, but that’s okay because it’s great saved for the mashed potatoes.
Salt and pepper to taste, mixing lightly as you add.
Scoop into oven safe dish and bake until brown, about 20-30 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
Click here for more of my family's Thanksgiving recipes, including Green Bean Casserole with Morel Mushrooms and Nantucket Cranberry Pie.