Savory, sweet Italian sausage is a menu master for the ages
There’s no two ways about it: Italian sausage is an undisputed menu rock star. Prized for its flavor and versatility, the uses for it in a pizzeria setting are abundant. When it comes right down to it, sausage is perhaps at its best on a simple pizza with red sauce. But that’s overdone, so let’s explore a few other ways to utilize this eternal hit by branching out a little without pushing the comfort boundary too far.
While fennel and anise are the two most common ingredients used to season the “Italian sausage” we are accustomed to here in America, the options — should you ever choose to make your own in-house — are quite varied. Apple and orange lend a sweetness, for example, while cayenne or other spices can bring heat.
Whether you’re making your own or purchasing a high-quality product from a supplier, let’s take a quick look at some flavor/ingredient pairings that you perhaps may not have thought of previously. While fennel and bell peppers probably spring to mind right away, Italian sausage also pairs well with soppressata, pepperoni, orange, onion, rosemary, jalapeño, potato, arugula, celery, radicchio, lentil, shallots, parsley, broccoli rabe, carrot, beans, sweet peppers, burrata, thyme, kale, tomatoes, fontina and Gorgonzola. And this is by no means a comprehensive listing, so don’t limit yourself as you explore with recipes in your kitchen.
One of my personal favorite recipes features a spicy Italian sausage that’s been paired with potatoes and rosemary. It uses a garlic and olive oil base, though I’ve also tried a decadently delicious version that had a cream sauce.
Another favorite of mine utilizes burrata, which I absolutely fell in love with the first time I tried it more than a decade ago.
Here’s the recipe for it: Fennel Sausage & Burrata Pizza
If you’d like to move slightly more outside the box without getting plain crazy, try this recipe that utilizes pinto beans for a different twist. The jalapeño really sets this thing off. This recipe was sent to me by my friend, the late Pat Bruno, many years ago. I’ve made it in the PT test kitchen a time or two and even made it at home once. I do tend to favor red sauce pizzas when I personally cook with Italian sausage (merely my preference), but this one has always caught my attention.
Try this recipe: Spicy Sausage Pizza
Jeremy White is editor-in-chief of Pizza Today.