Sweet Italian Sausage

4.82 from 38 votes
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Finished sweet Italian sausage recipe
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

With the possible exception of the hot dog, no sausage looms larger in my mind than does the simple sweet Italian sausage. I’ve eaten more of this type of link than any other — including hot dogs — and I’ve been making it, off and on, for nearly 20 years.

This is the sausage swimming in the spaghetti sauce. It’s the one you eat with peppers and onions. It’s the stuffing for pretty much everything, the base for meat sauces and the star of many a sandwich.

Originally a sausage made by and for Italian immigrants to the United States, according to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food in America, this style spread in popularity across the country after Word War II, when returning GIs who’d eaten real Italian sausages wanted that flavor back home.

Virtually every supermarket worth its salt makes their own, and virtually every home sausage-maker has his or her own version. This one’s mine, developed over the years.

Sweet Italian sausage has a few commonalities no matter who makes it. For starters, “sweet” is a misnomer, although there is sugar in many recipes, including mine. The term sweet is mostly to differentiate this sausage from the hot Italian sausage, which will have lots of red pepper in it.

Fennel is another constant. If a sweet Italian link doesn’t have whole fennel seeds in it, something just doesn’t seem right to me. Lots of green things, typically chopped parsley, is another constant. Use fresh parsley here, too.

I prefer my Italian sausage a bit coarse, but not so coarse it won’t bind. My grinder only does coarse and fine, so I improvise by grinding half the mixture coarse and half fine; I find that this gets me the consistency I grew up with.

Sweet Italian sausage on a platter
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

A word on fat. Good Italian sausage is fatty. My recipe below is about the minimum amount of fat-to-meat you want to go. Sometimes I go with 3 1/2 pounds of meat to 1 1/2 pounds of fat. You can also use some really fatty pork shoulder, too: Ask your butcher to give you a five-pound hunk before he’s trimmed it.

That’s it, really. This is a very simple sausage, a utility link you will find yourself making over and over because while it has great flavor on its own, this sausage goes well with all kinds of dishes (especially my Bolognese sauce).

New to making sausage? You can find my detailed tutorial on how to make sausages at home here.

Sweet Italian sausage recipe
4.82 from 38 votes

Sweet Italian Sausage

This sausage is really best with some sort of pig, whether it's domesticated pork or wild hogs. I've tried it with other meats and it's not as good. Black bear comes close, but it's a little too red to look right. Keep in mind my recipe is what I like, and it's representative of the typical sweet Italian sausages you will get all over the country. You can vary the seasonings to your taste. If you can get fennel pollen, it really adds a lot to the flavor. All butcher shops carry hog casings, and some supermarkets will sell them to you, too. Or you can buy sausage casings online.
Course: Appetizer, Cured Meat, Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 20 links
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours


  • 4 pounds of lean (ish) pork or wild boar
  • 1 pound of pork fatback
  • 36 grams of kosher salt, about 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon
  • 30 grams of sugar, about 3 tablespoons
  • 18 grams of fennel seeds, about 2 heaping tablespoons
  • 10 grams freshly cracked black pepper, about a heaping teaspoon
  • 1 gram of nutmeg, about 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 heaping teaspoon fennel pollen (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup white wine, chilled
  • Hog casings (if you are linking your sausage)


  • Get out about 15 to 20 feet of hog casings and soak them in warm water.
  • Cut the meat and fat into chunks you can fit into your meat grinder. Mix together the salt, sugar, half the fennel seeds, black pepper, nutmeg, oregano and fennel pollen, then mix this with the meat and fat until every piece has a little on it. Put in the freezer until the meat and fat are between 30°F and 40°F. Put your grinder parts (auger, dies, blades, etc) in the freezer, too, and put a bowl in the fridge.
  • Grind half of the mixture through the coarse die on your grinder, and half through the fine die. This creates a more interesting texture. If your meat mixture is still at 35°F or colder, you can go right to binding. If it has heated up, you need to chill everything back down. Use this time to clean up the grinder.
  • Once the meat is cold, put it in a large bin or bowl and add the remaining fennel seeds, white wine and parsley. Mix well with your (very clean) hands for 2 to 3 minutes -- a good indicator of temperature is that your hands should ache with cold when you do this. You want to to mix until the meat binds to itself. You can also do this in a stand mixer set on its lowest setting, but I find you don't get as good a bind as you do when you do this by hand.
  • You now have Italian sausage. You can leave it loose, form it into patties, or link it. I link mine most of the time. Put the loose sausage into a stuffer and thread a casing onto it. Stuffing sausage is easier with two people, one to fill the links, the other to coil, but I do it solo all the time. Stuff the links well but not super-tight, as you will not be able to tie them off later if they are too full. Don't worry about air pockets yet. Stuff the whole casing, leaving lots of room on either end to tie them off; I leave at least three inches of unstuffed casing on either end of the coil.
  • To form the individual links, tie off one end of the coil. Now pinch off two links of about six inches long. Rotate the link between your hands forward a few times. (Here's a quick video on making the links) Look for air pockets. To remove them, set a large needle or a sausage pricker into a stovetop burner until it glows (this sterilizes it), then pierce the casing at the air pockets. Twist the links a little and gently compress them until they are nice and tight. Repeat this process with the rest of the sausage.
  • Hang your links on a wooden clothes drying rack for at least an hour, or up to overnight if you can hang them in a place that doesn't get any warmer than 40°F or so. This lets the links cure a little, filling their casings and developing flavor. Once you've taken the links off the hanger, they can be refrigerated for up to 3 or 4 days, or frozen for up to a year.


Calories: 98kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 37mg | Sodium: 742mg | Potassium: 223mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 130IU | Vitamin C: 2.6mg | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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Recipe Rating


  1. I love that you listed ingredients by weight as well as volume. Makes everything precise and consistent. Recipe looks great, cant wait to try it!

  2. First time sausage maker. My family bought me a Weston grinder and stuffer. I read your tutorial and watched the video. Extremely helpful. I live near Philadelphia and the temperature was 25 degrees all weekend. I have a detached garage and set up the machine on my work bench with a 6 mil plastic liner. The advice on grinding rough then fine was helpful. I made this recipe and the spicy italian sausage recipe. I noticed that your recommendation in the spicy recipe is to salt and sugar the meat and fat the night before. You did not include this step in the sweet recipe. I didn’t do it this time with either recipe and the result was still excellent. I had fennel pollen for the sweet recipe. I also added Niptella. I get it from a spice shop in NYC. The spicy recipe I used Harissa instead of the spicy paprika. I didn’t get the color like yours but the flavor was really nice. I enjoy your content and will try additional recipes.

  3. Did this recipe used to have sweet paprika in it? I swear I made this previously and there was paprika in it. Maybe i’m going crazy

  4. This is a great recipe! I scale it up to 80 links and use 2-10lb deboned Boston Butts (Pork shoulder) in place of the lean pork and backfat. I live in Boston, so this cut is in every supermarket and butcher shop. Additionally, I have some hungry friends that have no problem getting rid of these sausages before I need to freeze them.

    The Boston Butt is a cut of meat that usually has the right amount of backfat to lean pork ratio for sausage. So I cut it up in to chunks that the meat grinder can handle. I use a decent $9/bottle Pinot Grigio for the the wine. I haven’t found a source of fennel pollen yet but will try it as soon as I do! It’s probably 2/3 – 3/4 of the cost of professionally made sausage if you don’t count the 90 mins labor it takes me and a helper to grind/stuff 80 sausages, and you can’t beat the freshness of the taste! Wish I could post a pic of the finished product. It’s impressive.

  5. I make these regularly and they are beautiful. The Fennel pollen make this recipe.
    Always a hit with family and friends.

  6. instead of grinding coarse / fine, I grind coarse / coarse to get the right consistency. second grinding is with spices in. It is a good PA sausage.

    1. Joe: A butcher shop will have it, but other than that, use pork belly or the fattiest part of pork shoulder.

  7. Haven’t tried it yet but I’m going to because you’re very clear on your instructions. And from a newbie, sounds like you know what you’re doing! ?Also, I’m learning that measuring using metric is so much more accurate. So I really appreciate that your measurements are metric.
    It’ll only be the second time I’m making sausage but here goes…

    1. Hank, I just bought the metal meat grinder attachment to go on the wife’s Kitchenaid. Your sweet and hot Italian sausage was the first 2 recipes I made…first time making sausage from scratch. After we stuffed all links, I cooked up a small batch of the sweet that was left over in the machine before even tasting one of the links. Dude….dude, this is #$%& awesome. Zero comparison to store bought, they are on different planets. The white wine really comes through, amazing flavor. I can’t wait to try the hot and all of your other recipes. Thank you, sir, I think I found a new hobby.

  8. Made this sausage for 9th time today. It’s fantastic. I toast my fennel seeds for use here, but the fennel pollen is simply sublime. Didn’t use it my first two batches, but once I found a supplier it has been used each time. Makes a huge difference.
    The same company also sells dill pollen which I use for making dill pickles. Closest thing to having dill flower heads in the mix. Much better flavor than dill seeds or herbatious dill can impart on a cucumber.

    Anyway, thanks for the recipe, Hank.


  9. Thanks for sharing – this recipe is delicious! We didn’t have wine or fennel pollen but it was delicious anyway. We made patties, baked @ 350F for about 30 minutes total – temped to be sure. We had them alone, and with our homemade spaghetti sauce.
    We both really enjoyed them. Definitely a keeper!

  10. Hello, I don’t have any where to hang my sausage to dry. Can I place it on wire racks instead for drying?? Thanks

    1. Rick: Yes, you can do that, but you will get the “wire rack” marks on the links. Not anything to worry about, but it changes how they look.

    1. I used some diced apple in place of most of the fat, chive in place of parsley and both Fennel seeds and ground fennel plus the rest of the recipe. Worked great, gonna make more. Thanks for the recipe and advice

      1. I’ve used good quality fat back and I’ve make sure everything is ice cold I even put the meat and fat in the freezer for an hour before I grind. So There is no smearing. But when I go and cook them a lot of the fat comes out and drys out the sausage I use the 4/1 ratio of meat to fat. Someone told me to hand chop the fat and incorporated it that way. Any suggestions?

      2. Mario: That happens when you cook a sausage at too high heat. It can also happen when the meat and fat aren’t mixed thoroughly. I don’t hand chop fat in fresh sausages, but I don’t think that’s the problem.

  11. I want try to make this, pork all over the place but Italian sausage in the Philippines is hard to find and when you do it’s shipped over from the US and at least $6 a lb. I tried your smoked salmon recipe, very good. An idea on the Fennel seed/pollen, never had the pollen that I know of but I toast my seeds in a frying pan careful not to burn and then process them. I use a mortar pestle but spice grinder is good too. Might get you there without the pollen