Sausage making is one of the oldest by-products of butchery. In the days prior to refrigeration, when preserving food was an issue, ingenious cooks figured out that stuffing salted meat inside cleaned out animal intestines would keep the meat for quite a long time. The first butchers used those animal parts that were not appealing in themselves but mixed together tasted good and were nutritious – scraps, organs, blood, fat. In the case of Scottish haggis, the process has remained fairly unchanged.
The first recorded sausage recipe of goat and lamb is compliments of the Chinese in 589 BC. Romans and Greeks enjoyed their sausages too and the lucanica sausage from the Italian region of Basilicata (called Lucania in antiquity) survives in its original form to this day.
The most natural casing is still cleaned animal intestines although in big manufacturing plants plastic and cellulose are clearly most common.
In the US fat content in a sausage is regulated by the Dept of Agriculture with a maximum of 50% of fat depending on sausage style. The good news is that there are no fillers like in English bangers that do contain up to 25% of bread crumbs to make up for the shrinkage that occurs when cooking the meat.
My mother always made a mean pasta with sausage, one of the first dishes I learnt to cook and a staple over the years. The closest I have come to finding a sausage similar to the one she uses is the spicy Italian one from Wholefoods. It’s a bit spicier than the original version but, hey, here we are close to the Mexican border…
RECIPE for 4 people
4 Spicy Italian Sausage Links
1 Can Crushed or Diced Tomatoes
2 T Olive Oil
1/4 C Milk
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 # Short Pasta like Fusilli or Penne
1. Remove the sausages from their casings. In a saucepan heat the olive oil on medium heat and add the sausages. Break the meat with a wooden spoon and cook for 5 to 7 minutes.
2. Add the milk, lower the heat slightly, and let the meat absorb it.
3. Add the tomatoes and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste (it might not be necessary if the sausage are heavily seasoned).
4. Cook the pasta, drain and drop it in the prepared sauce. Serve immediately.