Italian Sausage Bread Stuffing With Pears

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Pretty much everyone’s mom makes the best “stuffing” ever for turkey. God knows I would not want to take away the pleasure of eating hers but here is my offering that I have been making for more than 10 years, which means it is, in our opinion, delicious. I made this a few of years ago when we spent Thanksgiving in Umbria! Click here to see the blog about our Canadian Thanksgiving in Italy.  I like to cook my stuffing in the bird, just like my mom did, but you choose what you feel comfortable with. Bonus…you can make it the day before and keep in the fridge until an hour before you want to cook it.

Makes 12 Servings

2 loaves of sourdough bread cut into ¾” cubes
1 lb. sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
6 Tbsp. butter, 4 Tbsp. for sausage mixture & 2 for dotting stuffing if baking in a baking dish
2 cups diced celery (or you can use some fresh fennel as well)
1 ¼ lbs. onions, chopped
1 Tbsp.+ fennel seeds
1 ¼ lbs. firm but ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored, cut into ½” pieces
2 large red bell peppers, chopped
2 tsp. dried thyme (or 4 tsp. fresh thyme)
2 tsp. dried marjoram
2 tsp. dried rubbed sage (rubbed between your palms until powdery)
¾ cup dry white wine
¾ cup (approx.) canned low-salt chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Spread bread cubes onto 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Bake until just golden, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a very large bowl.
Cook the sausage in a large pan over medium-high heat until browned, breaking up pieces with the back of a fork, about 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a small bowl. Melt 4 Tbsp. butter in the same pan over medium-high heat. Add celery, onions & fennel seeds. Sauté until veggies are tender and golden brown, about 15 minutes; reduce heat to medium; add pears, bell peppers & herbs sautéing until pears & peppers are just tender, about 10 minutes. Add wine & boil until most liquid evaporates (there will still be a tablespoon or so of liquid left in the pan), stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Cool to room temperature before stuffing turkey.

Note: Toasted bread cubes, sausage & fennel mixture can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover separately. Store bread cubes at room temperature & place sausage mixture in the fridge.

Add sausage, fennel mixture to bread cubes. Add chicken stock to moisten, adding more as required; season with salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Use stuffing to fill your turkey or place stuffing in a large baking dish & dot with 2 Tbsp. butter before baking. Bake stuffing at 350 F for approximately 35 – 40 minutes or until hot. If you prefer the stuffing not to have too crusty a top, cover the dish with foil before baking; remove about 8-10 minutes before stuffing is done to crisp up just a bit.

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