Whether you like it best as a pizza topping or in a bun, there's no denying that Italian sausage is one of the most flavorful dinners around. However, many people following kosher, halal, or low-cholesterol diets aren't sure whether or not they're able to eat it. Is Italian sausage pork?
While recipes can vary from maker to maker, most types of Italian sausage are pork-based. Pork has a higher fat content than other meats, making it a perfect choice for sausage.
Learn more about Italian sausage and its ingredients here.
What is Italian Sausage?
The term "Italian sausage" may be a bit confusing for some since Italian cuisine is known for a wide range of different meats, which are sometimes referred to as "sausage." But the word doesn't usually mean salami, mortadella, soppressata, or other thinly sliced meats that are often served on sandwiches.
Instead, it refers to a thick sausage served on a bun or by itself on a plate, similar to a hot dog or bratwurst.
Do you have a pack of sausage sitting in the back of your fridge? Make sure it's fresh before eating it!
Types of Italian Sausages
There are a variety of different Italian sausage types, but the two most common are sweet and spicy. The difference between them is simple—the spicy sausage contains hot red pepper flakes, whereas the sweet one does not. The spicy sausage can range from mildly spicy to quite hot, depending on the maker.
How Is Italian Sausage Eaten?
Italian sausage is commonly eaten on a bun, much in the same way as a hot dog. Generally, a thicker bun is used, and fewer condiments are put on top, as the sausage itself is more flavorful than others. In most cases, the sausage is grilled rather than boiled.
Italian sausage is also commonly enjoyed on pizzas and in calzones. When you order sausage pizza, you're most commonly getting Italian sausage.
What is Italian Sausage Made Of?
While an Italian sausage might seem like simple fare, more goes into it than you might expect. See what role each of these ingredients plays in the recipe.
Most Italian sausages are made of pork since this meat tends to have a higher fat content than beef, chicken, or lamb. Generally, pork shoulder or pork butt is used, though fattier cuts are sometimes added in to enhance the flavor and smooth out the texture.
Most types of sausage use pork, so what separates Italian sausage from others is the blend of spices it uses. This will vary from maker to maker, but generally, fennel is the distinctive spice that stands out. Paprika, nutmeg, and coriander can also be used. In hot Italian sausage, red pepper flakes are added for spice.
Herbs and Aromatics
The herbs and aromatics found in sausage might not be the dominant aspect of their flavor, but they're an important part of what makes Italian sausage unique. They add a bit of freshness to counterbalance the fatty pork and spices.
Chipped, fresh parsley is often found in Italian sausage, lending its fresh flavor. Dried basil and oregano are also often used, as they are common in Italian cuisine. Finally, garlic serves as a backbone, adding zest that pairs nicely with the overall flavor profile.
Wine isn't used in all Italian sausages, though when it is, it adds an acidic element to balance the rich flavors. White wines like Pinot Grigio are common; however, you can also find sausage made with red wines like Chianti.
Italian sausage isn't usually very sweet, even if it is labeled as such. Rather, the addition of a bit of sugar helps balance out the other flavors and tie in the acidic elements added by the wine.
Once the blend is thoroughly mixed, the sausage meat is squeezed into a casing. A variety of different casings have been used, both natural and artificial. Often, Italian sausage still uses natural casings made from hog intestines.
Frequently Asked Questions
While Italian sausage is usually made of pork, it is not the same thing as products labeled "pork sausage" in your local grocery store. Usually, these are breakfast sausages that have a sweeter flavor and a higher fat content than Italian sausage. By contrast, Italian sausage is spicy and tastes of fennel.
It's difficult to replicate the exact taste of Italian sausage since there are few other varieties that include the same blend of herbs and spices. Your best bet is to choose a mild sausage, like bratwurst, and add the seasoning yourself. To your brats, add fennel seed, paprika, garlic, and red pepper, and you should have a close match.