In my various pizzerias I actually use three to four different sausages instead of sticking with just one. Many pizzerias just have one type, which is fine. But, for me, sausage is such an important ingredient and one of the most popular in our industry. There are so many flavor combinations, so why settle for one?
I use a fresh sausage that we make and grind in bulk, but we also case two types of sausages in house. We have a Calabrese and sweet fennel or beer sausage. Both are amazing. Having said that, I also buy bulk sausage from a major industry sausage supplier. I’ve been using the product for more than 25 years and I love it. It has amazing flavor and I have never switched.
Some people have asked me why I buy the product when I already make my own in house. I feel like a sausage that comes from Chicago can be used in any style (most importantly Chicago-style!) pizza. And just like the San Marzano tomato should be used on a Verace Pizza Napoletana pizza, so should a Chicago sausage be used on a Chicago pizza. This bulk sausage browns easily compared to others on the market. The sweet fennel garlic flavor and balance is important for the authentic flavor I am looking for. I’ve been to Chicago several times and the sausage that comes out of that area has a flavor component and profile that I want on my pizzas, plain and simple. I’m a traditionalist, after all. So I think regional pizzas should use regional ingredients. It’s why Provel cheese has be used on a St. Louis pizza, for example.
If you were to make your own sausage, try adding a browning agent like honey or agave nectar to help caramelize the pork faster. I do this and the results are amazing, especially when used in a wood-fired oven.
There is no comparison between fresh sausage and pre-cooked as far as I’m concerned. My Italian grandmother would be turning in her grave if she heard I was using a pre-cooked or pre-boiled bulk sausage on my pizzas. The flavor and quality simply cannot be compromised.
RESPECTING THE CRAFT features World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani, owner of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Pizza Rock in Sacramento. Tony compiles the column with the help of his trusty assistants, Laura Meyer and Thiago Vasconcelos. If you have questions on any kitchen topic ranging from prep to finish, Tony’s your guy. Send questions via Twitter @PizzaToday, Facebook (search: Pizza Today) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pass the best ones on to Tony.