Out of everything my mother-in-law has ever made, I think this is my favorite. Not just my favorite, but everyone’s. This Italian sausage and chestnut stuffing is a staple in my husband’s family, and one year, when I brought my parents over for Thanksgiving, with them being of the Stovetop-stuffing camp, this blew my mom’s mind. AND she hates mushrooms, and loved this. (We didn’t tell her there were mushrooms in it until way later. I’m not stupid.)
I didn’t really like stuffing until I tried this one, and now, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it. In my mental dictionary of food, when I see stuffing, this is the picture that comes to mind.
It might require a ton of chopping and prep…
It might be so much stuffing, that you have to mix it in a 12 quart pot…
But it’s worth it.
Not coincidentally, this is also the recipe I’ve been most nervous to share on this site. For reals. It’s an epic recipe in the family; it’s an amalgamation of recipes from Aunt Marie’s mother, Clara Occhigrosso, my husband’s Grandma Rosie (you remember her pignoli cookies) and my mother in law (aforementioned Mom Rubino of many recipes). I learned how to make it by feel (and then translated the recipe into something resembling English). Also, it changes EVERY DAMN YEAR, when Mom makes it and decides there is too much/not enough of something and tweaks it slightly. What I’m really saying here is, this recipe has evolved and, if you’re a confident cook, don’t be shy about tweaking it. Love chestnuts? Add some extra. Hate mushrooms? Leave them out. But please trust me… it is perfect the way it appears here, and along with some gravy on top, will forever change your opinion of stuffing for the better.
italian sausage and chestnut stuffing
I know there are parts of the recipe that require judgement calls (Is the bread moist enough? Should I add another egg?). Please email at me ihavetoeatthat.com if you EVER have any questions. I will always answer questions about the recipes on this site, and if I can’t, I have a hotline to the Mom who made this 🙂
For the bread in this stuffing recipe, we have always used Wegman’s plain stuffing cubes. I don’t know why, it’s one of those things; no joke, Mom used to send Dad to Jersey from Brooklyn every year to pick them up. If you can’t find them, preheat your oven to 250, cut up 2ish pounds of white sandwich bread into cubes, spread them evenly on a baking sheet and oven dry it at 250 for about 10 minutes. Shake them around and if still not dried through, put them back in the oven for a minute or two. Let them cool and weigh out 2 pounds of cubes for use as directed in the recipe below. (Thanks, Wikihow!)
2 pounds (2 packages) of Wegman’s PLAIN bag of bread cubes for stuffing
4 pounds of Italian sausage, without fennel (we use ShopRite’s); remove from casings
1 lb. diced ham
3-4 large onions, diced
8 celery stalks, chopped
24 ounces (3 boxes) of mushrooms, sliced
2 (8 ounce) jars of whole-roasted french chestnuts, broken up (we use Haddon House)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
about 1 cup of grated cheese (to taste)
16oz. Polly-o mozzarella, cubed
1 stick of melted butter for stuffing, plus more for sautéing vegetables
~32oz chicken broth (you may need more/less, see recipe)
salt and pepper to taste
Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a sauté pan over medium-low heat, and sauté your onions for about 5-7 minutes or until translucent, adding salt & pepper to taste. Remove once done, & add to your stockpot.
In the same pan, cook your celery in 2 tablespoons of butter for 8-10 minutes or until soft and slightly browned, add salt & pepper to taste. Remove & add to stockpot (you might notice a trend here).
Cook mushrooms in butter, salt + pepper to taste, take them out & add to stockpot. Use fresh butter every time, if you’re nervous about butter you can also use 1 tbsp. of butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil, but it’s Thanksgiving.
Turn up the heat to medium-high, and brown your sausage meat (which you removed from the casing), breaking it up as you cook it. Remove & add to your stockpot. (Alternatively, if you’re looking for things to do the night before, you can cook all of the vegetables and the sausage and store them in separate containers overnight, they’ll be just fine the day after!)
After adding all of the vegetables and sausage, and letting it cool slightly, put your bread cubes in the aforementioned 12 quart stockpot. Melt 1 stick (8 tablespoons) of butter and add that to the bread mixture, then slowly add chicken broth to moisten the bread, stirring/tossing the whole time. You want the mixture to be just moist enough, not soggy, and not too dry either (if I come up with a better way to explain, I swear, I’ll update the recipe.) It should be about 32 ounces, or 1 quart of chicken broth. Also… when you’re mixing this, toss with your hands; you can try to use a wooden spoon but we’ve broken one before making this. Plus you’ll get a feel of how moist it is.
Add French chestnuts, mozzarella, grated cheese, and chopped ham. Add eggs, parsley to bowl; make sure the mixture is not too hot for the eggs. Check again to make sure it’s moist enough, if it feels a little dry add more chicken broth in 1/4 cup increments (you can also add more butter, but that’s a slippery slope).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large lasagna pan, and put as much of the mixture as you can fit in it. If you have leftover, and there’s a chance you will, you can bake it in a greased loaf pan… or do what we do. Put it in that loaf pan, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and aluminum foil, and freeze it for a day in December or January when you don’t want to cook.
Oh, how do you know when it’s done? “When your finger goes in the middle of the stuffing and it’s so hot you want to take it out right away, it’s done.” (Thanks Mom.)
If you’re like me and not crazy, that means a temperature of ~170 degrees. The top may not be brown, and you can broil it slightly if you’d like it to be, but be careful that you don’t overcook and dry it out, you want it to be “hot but moist.” (That’s what she said.)
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!