“It’s not always about the food, it’s about the story.” I think Ruth Reichl, the Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet, said that once. My apologies if I am incorrect. (And no, this column is not about the fact many people are still puzzled and shake their heads and shrug about the closing of Gourmet magazine . Yes, I still do. The last few issues are still in my bookcase with all the signed cookbooks my husband collects. No offense to the other food mags which we also enjoy. Note to Publishing Executives…PLEASE don’t touch Food & Wine either! Thanks…
Now, to the story of the sausage bread. Grandpa Frascatore aka “Andy” taught all of his sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren (me) how to make the sausage bread. Often we did it at Christmas or Easter. It became a tradition. At holiday time, I used to make it for potluck at the office. (It was always gone in 2 minutes and everyone asked for the recipe.) It still has a specific food memory for me when I eat it. And I still remember the first time Andy showed me how to make it. I hear his voice in my head. He could chop, julienne and cube perfectly, like Chef Morimoto.
A few words before we get to the recipe….
Note: ratio is always same as for each loaf, you can increase slightly for bigger loaves after you go through process once and see how you like the sizes, and we do bigger ones at holidays.
Sometimes to lift loaf onto pan, it is a 2-person job, my husband always helps me, or you can use a very large spatula to help
You know how in cooking books, on TV and online “it is about the best ingredients”. In this case, I am not kidding. The four main ingredients of sausage, provolone, Parmigiano and dough are key.
It pays to go to local Italian Gourmet store and pay for good sausage, cheeses and dough. We have Ferrucci’s in Little Silver grate fresh Parmigiano Reggiano for us. The imported provolone costs a little more but it is worth it. Their homemade Italian sausage is far better than the prepackaged supermarket brands.
The recipe causes the whole house to smell like sausage so it is a good idea to do this on a day when you can open the windows during the frying process.
The recipe is easy. You just need a little space and the time to prepare it. We usually do two loaves at once. One is eaten the day it is made. The other is frozen for future use.
At the holidays, we cook several over the course of a weekend. Some we freeze. Others are given to friends and family as a parting gift. Once the loaves are completely cooled, wrap them first in plastic and then with aluminum foil and freeze for up to one month. Just remember to remove the plastic before you reheat them it in the oven. I always write that note of caution on a label and apply it to the loaves. A few years ago, I forgot this important step and almost ruined a friend’s Festivus dinner. But that is a posting for another time…..
For non-meat eaters, an option is to make with garlic instead of sausage. We do not specify the amount of garlic. It depends on your personal tastes. We also do not advise using raw garlic but chopping fine and toasted golden brown with some olive oil. Try a large amount of 4 or 5 cloves and see how it cooks down and tastes in the bread the first time. From past experience, a little garlic goes a long way. This is evident in the fact that when my family makes garlic loaves they are sometimes labeled with “a skull and crossbones”.
Sausage bread is an appetizer or snack and usually does not last very long. We usually eat it with salad. Garlic version goes very well with plate of pasta or salad too.
I have yet to meet someone who eats it and does not like it….
The recipe is provided below.
Ingredients: for 1 loaf (Buy the best quality you can get, not from the supermarket, go to your local Italian specialty store)
- 1 – ½ lbs sweet Italian sausage
- ½ pound sharp provolone cheese
- 1 lb of pizza dough
- Medium container fresh ground parmesan cheese*
- (*Parmigiano Reggiano fresh ground strongly suggested)
- Cracked pepper or coarse fresh black pepper ok
- Flour to roll out dough and coat rolling pin
- A little olive oil for bottom of pan
- Kitchen tools
- large frying pan, rolling pin, large flat pizza pan or baking pan (does not have to be non-stick)
- Small food brush to spread olive oil on bread, 2 large bowls – one to hold cooked sausage and one for cut-up provolone
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Take sausage out of casing and fry in pan. You want sausage cooked fully and a little carmelized with dark brown bits but be careful not to over cook. Good Italian sausage is very lean. It can become dry because of the low fat content. Place in bowl and to the side to cool a bit.
- Cut up provolone into ½ inch cubes.
- Flour counter and rolling pin (we like french rolling pins).
- Roll out dough to 18 inches by 18 inches.
- Apply a little olive oil to lightly coat the baking pan.
- Starting at one end, about 3 inches from the end start a “layer of ingredients”.
- Each layer is a line of ingredients, then you fold the dough over and repeat until you finish all the dough.
- Here’s how you make the “layer of ingredients” take a spoon and scoop up sausage; layer sausage about 1/2” high, lay a provolone cubes across entire layer of sausage , then sprinkle parmesan across entire layer and then black pepper across too (a little pepper goes a long away, have fun with the parmesan).
- Take the end of the dough and fold over until you have covered previous layer.
- Layers at beginning and end of dough should be a little smaller. Leave yourself and 1-1/2 inches to 2-inches on each side so it is easier to fold over. This prevents ingredients form seeping out of dough when it cooks.
- Repeat the steps above until you have about 3 inches left.
- Close dough and bring end together so it looks like a crescent roll or croissant-ish shape
- Place on pan greased slightly with olive oil, put a very little olive oil over top of bread for browning.
- Cook 20-25 minutes in middle of oven (not too close to top of the oven because you can burn top of bread).
- *Note: You have to keep an eye on the bread while it bakes. If it starts to get a little darker on top, put a piece of aluminum foil over it and cook another 5 minutes or so (Cooking a little longer is better).
Other helpful hints:
- Provolone should be oozy not runny. (did I mention good ingredients? Cheap provolone is no good)
- We mix it up, mostly sweet sausage and then ask Italian store to throw in a little hot sausage, 1 link should do it.
- Serve in square HUNKS, no neat slices!
- It is very hot if you serve fresh out of oven so give it a minute after cutting hunks before serving
- If you freeze, good idea to place in fridge night before to help defrosting process before you plan to serve and reheat
- Slice loaf up and put in the oven, this helps it to heat up faster and the bread gets a little crispier.