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Top This: Mark Bello's Pizza (a Casa) Sausage

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[Photograph: Adam Kuban]

If the store-bought sausage you've been using on your pizza is a little limp in the flavor department but you've been hesitant to make your own, this concoction couldn't be easier to pull together. You don't need a meat grinder, casings, or sausage stuffer. You probably have most of the ingredients on hand, too, if your spice drawer is stocked. Most of the work involves a trip to the butcher.

This recipe comes from Mark Bello of Pizza a Casa. Bello makes a batch of this intensely flavorful fennel-studded pork sausage as a topping option for each session of the pizzamaking class he teaches at the "Pizza Self-Sufficiency Center."

I've made it for my own "pizza nights" a couple times now, and I have a hard time not using it on every pizza in the evening lineup.

On pizza, it's reminiscent of the sausage you'll find at places with a long history of tastiness — and that's not a coincidence. Bello says:

My sausage recipe is modeled after my favorite New Jersey/NYC fennel-seed-studded sausage found on the tasty twice-baked slices of yore at the mom-and-pop pizza shops at the mall, on the boardwalk, or at the NYC corner joint. At each place it was cut from a par-cooked link — never the crumbled stuff that always got all dried out and yucky. I don't encase my sausage, but sufficiently sized chunks and proper par-cooking is key for proper juiciness.

Ready to make this yet? Good.

Here's What You'll Need

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Ground pork: Bello says, "I use everything from killer heritage breed varieties to kick-ass, fresh-ground all-day-long stuff I get near my apartment in Chinatown. If you don't have the myriad of NYC foodstuffs at your fingertips, ask your butcher for a blend of Boston butt and fat back, coarse ground and at 75/25 lean to fat. That's usually an 8- to 10-pound commitment, but make a big batch o' sausage and freeze it in pizza-party-ready deli pint containers. It freezes well. Just thaw in the fridge overnight."

If you're not quite ready for that level of commitment, just get a pound of coarsely ground pork, as close to the 3:1 meat-fat ratio as you can get. That's what I get from my local butcher, and it works well. Of course, if you have a meat grinder and are ambitious, there's nothing stopping you from grinding your own.

Seasonings: You probably have most of these in your pantry. Salt, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and fennel seeds.

I didn't have fennel seeds myself and had to hunt around my neighborhood for them. Pizza a Casa actually sells some "I that seem ideal for sausage-making. Says Bello, "They're smaller than typical fennel seeds and they really sing in the sausage—no pre-toasting necessary, either." A $5 bag should be enough for 5 pounds of sausage, he says.

And while that might sound like a pitch, I'm eager to try the smaller seeds once I run out of my own at home. I lose a small amount of seeds when I break up the sausage for topping — I'm guessing the smaller variety will better incorporate into the mixture.

Maybe this will please the folks looking for pizza sausage recipes in this Talk topic.

Get the recipe here! »

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