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doing less

Recipe: homemade bulk italian sausage

Summer was exhausting. I don’t know if it was the puppy, the heat, the countless smokey days (and nights), or a whole host of other things, but I am wiped out. Our fall colors came on early around here, but they’ve been trickling along at a weird pace. The aspens are changing, but in a staggered manner so that there are plenty of green, gold, and stripped stands all in one place. Considering the amount of work on my plate, I told Jeremy I wouldn’t be shooting fall colors this season – hoping that I can make it to the holidays in one piece. Maybe the whole getting older thing has taught me that I can’t do it all, nor do I need to. Autumn is a good time to reflect on what the heck I’m doing. Anytime is a good time to reflect on what the heck I’m doing. Also, if I’m doing too much and if I should perhaps do a little less.

getting some high country hikes with the pups

We drove to Crested Butte over the weekend to get our sprinklers blown out. We were there for all of 36 hours. The colors are nice right now. Not as good as most years, but Jeremy tells me I have nature photographer standards – which is true. It doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy them. What it does mean is the quality of the aspen colors aren’t worth the trouble of bringing Neva hiking and shooting with us. There is so much stopping and waiting involved that she spirals into a complete frenzy of excitement and stress. What we didn’t know was that Yuki would simply sit down and enjoy the surroundings until it was time to move on. Yuki is proving to be the ideal dog companion for these outdoor pursuits (foraging, photography). She just might become my little buddy for photography road trips.

neva and yuki enjoying fall foliage

gold underfoot and overhead

waves of color

Part of my “doing less” so I can “get more done” is digging into my queue of recipes. I have a year’s worth that have been scribbled in my notebooks, photographed, and tested, waiting for their moment to go live on the blog. Sometimes they are in queue because they need more testing or a reshoot and other times I’ve just forgotten about them. This is one of the forgotten ones. It’s so good and I use it all the time! If you think it’s easy to ask the butcher for a pound of bulk Italian sausage, it’s almost as easy to make it yourself. For real. Let me show you.

crushed red pepper, fennel seeds, kosher salt, garlic, ground pork

That’s it! Those five ingredients go into Italian sausage AND you get to decide how spicy or garlicky you want it to be. I use a food processor to turn the spices and aromatics into a paste, but you can also chop everything by hand if you don’t have a food processor.

peeled and smashed garlic

place the salt, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, and garlic in a food processor

blitz into a coarse paste

Once the paste is to your liking, mix it into the pork by hand until the spices are evenly distributed throughout. I use a disposable glove to mix the spice paste into the pork. It makes for easier cleanup and no screaming when I put my contacts in my eyes. Once the sausage is mixed, I reserve what I need for whatever I’m making that requires Italian sausage. For the rest, I divvy it into ziploc freezer bags for future use (up to 6 months). It helps to push out as much air from the bags as possible before sealing to maintain freshness.

mix by hand

bulk italian sausage

bagged for the freezer


A little bit of Italian sausage can go a long way. I use it as a pizza topping, in pasta dishes, or in savory breads or pastries. Had I known how simple and easy it was to make back in the day, I’d have started much earlier! And homemade always tastes better than what I get from the store.

baked shells with italian sausage

don’t mind if i do

Homemade Bulk Italian Sausage
[print recipe]
from Foodie with Family

2 lbs. ground pork shoulder or ground pork
4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 tbsps fennel seeds
1/2 to 1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes (depending on how much spice you like)
1 1/2 tbsps or more of kosher salt

Place the ground pork in a large bowl. Blend the garlic, fennel, pepper flakes, and salt in a food processor until the mixture resembles a coarse paste. Scrape the paste into the bowl with the ground pork and mix by hand until evenly distributed. Use immediately or freeze for up to 6 months (push as much air out as possible to preserve freshness). Makes 2 pounds.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

this little piggy pizza italian sausage pizza monkey bread porcini elk sausage tortellini in beef porcini brodo breakfast sausage

13 nibbles at “doing less”

  1. Kelly says:

    The picture of the gold aspen leaves under foot and above is AMAZING! It would have brought me to a stand still as I walked in the woods. You captured it so beautifully!!

    Thank you for the recipe! I will put this on my list to try soon.

  2. Heather says:

    “Sprinklers blown out”

    Please elaborate. Lawn sprinklers or fire protection? (My business)

    The aspen leaves are incredible.

    A close friend at our cabin is picking up a new black lab puppy next month and I can’t wait to love it!

  3. Jean ann says:

    Food processor! I did buy the same cuisinart you have and have only used it for pie crusts. Will definitely do this one this week! So glad Neva and Yuki balance each other out. Thanks and have a relaxing week!

  4. angelitacarmelita says:

    Your photos always blow me away…

    I’m with you on homemade sausage, it was like one of those “why not?” moments when I started making it myself. Better quality spices and pork, make better sausage than mass produced sausage.

    I’m on an island off the coast of North Carolina right now, doing just what you do in the beautiful cool mountains. Allowing myself some time to think about “what the heck am I doing? and am I doing too much?” I find peace here and almost always, the answer is “yes, your doing too much” I hope you and I both find the grace to accept that and allow ourselves to let some things wait (because letting things go completely would be out of the question! LOL!).

  5. Catering Albuquerque says:

    I love the aspens changing colors in my neck of the wood here in New Mexico. I visit the Hyde Park area in the Sangre De Cristos just above historic Santa Fe, New Mexico. They are gorgeous! There is something about fall and making bulk packages of all types of food for freezing that makes the season feel complete. Thanks for sharing! – Maria

  6. Marcy says:

    We just moved to the UK from Parker and your photos are making me homesick. But this recipe might be a life saver. They’ve not heard of Italian sausage here! But the pork is amazing so I might as well make my own.

  7. jill hyde says:

    As your survivor sister I know how important it is to find a balance. TPH says I need to retire…but I love my volunteer jobs. This recipe looks like something I’d like to do! Thanks for the post. I typically buy Boulder Italian Sausage or Poldori, cook it, and then freeze it in parchment packets for use just like you stated. Some might have 1/4 cup, or more. Sure makes cooking easy. Just thaw and add. Love your pack! Glad Neva has the option of staying home and watching for you to return on her perch. Lucky dogs! xo, jill

  8. farmerpam says:

    Looks like you got some great fall pictures. ;)

  9. Natalie says:

    Can I have your baked shells recipe? That dish looks amazing!

  10. Cathy says:

    Thank you for the inspiration recipe. I used different spices but you inspired me to get a hunk of pork butt out of my freezer, grind it up and use it in some chili. I also froze a pound raw and 2 half-pound containers cooked for quick pasta sauce upgrades. We bought 1/2 of a “happy pig” and some of the cuts of meat we received require extra thought (for me anyway).
    I am coming out of my “lurking” shell to thank you for the work you do on your blog and your delightful stories. I am not a dog owner (had cats) but enjoy your puppy stories and appreciate all the hard work you do to make your dogs happy and obedient. Enjoy the fall weather – I’m looking forward to getting some outside work done here in the next two weeks.

  11. jenyu says:

    Kelly – Thank you! We did stand still for quite some time while I photographed the area. Actually, I was the only one standing still – Jeremy had to walk the pups back and forth along the trail or else they (Neva) were going to lose their minds ;)

    Heather – Ha ha! Lawn sprinklers. Awww, little black lab puppies are the cutest <3

    Jean ann - You will find that the food processor has many wonderful uses (pesto is another!).

    angelitacarmelita - I really like that I get to choose the pork that I use! Reassessment is always good. I wish more people would do it ;)

    Catering ABQ - NM is lovely in autumn. I especially like this time of year down there (the roasting chiles, the fall colors, then the hot air balloons!).

    Marcy - Colorado misses you! :) And yes, you can make your own Italian sausage, chorizo, and breakfast sausage! So easy!!

    jill hyde - I think Boulder Sausage is a good brand and it is my go-to sausage in a pinch. The pups are settling into their routines, and I think we're making progress :)

    farmerpam - Thanks, hon!! xo

    Natalie - I don't have a recipe for that, believe it or not! I mostly mix up ricotta with egg, Parmesan, and spinach (like in a lasagne recipe) then stuff it in the (cooked) shells, top with cooked Italian sausage and mozzarella in a pan with a tomato pasta sauce and bake. It's lazy stuff, really - but good :)

    Cathy - I'm super jealous of your 1/2 happy pig!! Yum.

  12. Jacquie says:

    I’m wanting to make Italian sausage with venison and pork butt. Would you suggest 1/2 & 1/2 for meat and mix in these spices in the same ratio?

  13. jenyu says:

    Hi Jacquie – I have not made sausage with venison before, but I just hopped over to Hank Shaw’s website and he has a venison sausage recipe: It looks like he uses 20% pork or beef fat by weight, so I’d follow those guidelines for mixing your venison/pork sausage. Seems like you’ll want to make sure you include enough fat and then I’d use the spices for Italian sausage instead of the spices in his recipe. Also make note that he is using 5 lbs. of total meat+fat, so adjust your weights accordingly (this recipe is using 2 lbs. of meat+fat). Hope it works out!

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