For many of us, cooking with grandparents, in person or in memory, is a quintessential part of Thanksgiving. Whether you pack into the car to drive with your family, fly into their town, or have a group FaceTime to share the day’s sentiments, giving thanks together is special. And beyond the shared family time, Thanksgiving is the holiday marked by a feast! A meal with turkey, cranberry sauce, potatoes, green beans, and my personal favorite — stuffing. This stuffing recipe is extra special as it’s straight from the kitchen of my grandpa, Orazio. It’s a recipe my great grandma made and my grandparents continued to make as they grew their family, with my grandpa perfecting it into what it is today (the best stuffing ever!). It’s now my mom’s most requested dish and a staple on our family’s Thanksgiving (and Christmas) table.
Grandpa's Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe
- 2 loaves rustic sourdough bread, cubed
- 2 lbs. mild pork Italian sausage, ground or removed from casing
- 2 lbs. spicy pork Italian sausage, ground or removed from casing
- 2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped
- 8 cloves of garlic, minced
- 8 ribs of celery, roughly chopped
- 2 pints of whole grape tomatoes, a mix of colors, like red and orange
- ¼ - ½ cup Parmesan Reggiano cheese, finely grated
- 1 bunch Italian parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
- 1 cup mixed fresh herbs: rosemary, sage, marjoram, finely chopped
- Handful of full herb leaves: fresh sage, rosemary, marjoram
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Olive oil spray
- Black pepper
- Place cubed bread on a dry baking sheet and bake at 175°F or lower for a couple of hours. This will dry the bread into the texture of a crouton.
- When dried out, remove bread from the oven and spray with olive oil, enough to allow the herbs to stick. In a bowl, toss bread cubes with the mixed herbs, salt, and pepper. Once coated, return cubes to the baking sheet and continue to bake at 175°F, checking regularly to be sure they don't burn.
- While the bread continues to cook, start the sausage. Lightly coat a large frying pan with olive oil spray and set on medium heat. Place sausage into the pan. Cook thoroughly, breaking it up as needed, but should still have sizable chunks. Note: If using chicken instead of pork, the meat will come out a little drier, so you’ll want to incorporate olive oil (rather than spray) when cooking the sausage.
- Once meat is cooked, use a straining spoon to remove oils and place into a separate bowl. Set aside.
- Lower the pan flame and let the oil sit. Add onions and garlic, sauté until onions are clear and garlic is cooked. Toss in parsley and a couple pinches of salt.
- Drain the onion mixture to remove any excess oil. Add to the meat bowl and mix well. Set aside.
- Place celery into a separate bowl and add the tomatoes and chopped basil.
- Remove bread from the oven and allow to cool. Once cooled, add bread, celery, tomatoes, basil, and meat mixture into a large bowl. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder to taste. Mix well. then add ¼ - ½ cup Parmesan Reggiano cheese and full leaves of fresh sage, rosemary, and marjoram and toss lightly.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Add the stuffing into a deep ~2 inch glass baking pan. A disposable tin pan works, but should be lined with parchment paper to avoid cooking on aluminum, as it’s not always the healthiest option. Optional: In a small, oven safe bowl, cook a sample of the stuffing to determine if you’d like to add any more cheese or seasoning.
- Cover the stuffing with parchment paper and layer with tinfoil on top. The parchment paper should be under the tin foil, to avoid aluminum touching the food. Cook for about 30 minutes. When lightly browned, remove from oven and serve. Any extras can be stored in the freezer.
- If you have time, leave the bread out overnight and then decrease the oven time. The bread should be completely dry. If you have stale bread, now is the time to use it!
- My family prefers stuffing that’s a bit drier, but if needed, after about 20 minutes of cooking, remove from oven and toss. If it looks too dry for your liking, drizzle and mix a bit of chicken stock to moisten. Cover again and place back into the oven to continue to cook for the remaining 10 minutes.
- You can prep the stuffing a day or two ahead of time without the final step of cooking, this will allow the flavors to marry together. Cater this recipe to your taste: use different meats, top with pine nuts, add extra cheese, switch up the cheeses, leave out tomatoes, or add crushed red pepper for spice. Sometimes we broil at the end for a crunchy finish. It’s your stuffing to enjoy, from our family to yours!