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how to turn pork breakfast sausage into italian sausage for recipes

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One of the things that takes some getting use to about living in the country is the concept that “I’m just gonna run out and grab this thing I need” is insanely impractical. We’re a good 40 minutes to the closest supermarket, and while we have a small mom and pop grocery store about 10 minutes away, it certainly isn’t open all the time and has a very small selection.

Because of this, I’ve gotten really good at making substitutions. It’s not ever ideal, but it does the job and saves us the gas money (and time) of a trip “into the city”.

My newest substitution achievement is turning pork breakfast sausage into pork Italian sausage.

pork sausage

For some reason, our CSA keeps us in near-constant supply of delicious, flavorful, local pork breakfast sausage. Our freezer is stocked. So when I went digging in our deep freeze the other day for some Italian sausage, and all I was met with was pounds and pounds of breakfast sausage, I knew it was time for some substitution magic.

In an ideal world, we’d use the highest quality Italian sausage from the most incredible little Italian shop you could find. But this isn’t ideal. This is the country, where we do insane things like chase off coyotes and turn breakfast sausage into Italian sausage.

italian sausage

Because breakfast sausage is loaded with all kind of its own flavorings (most of which we don’t want in the final product) it takes some herb and spice subterfuge to cover those up and bring out that nice, spicy, fennel-y Italian sausage flavor. So open up your spice drawer kids, we’ve got some work to do.

breakfast sausage spices

The mixture is easy, in a bowl, combine:

  • 1 pound breakfast sausage
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds (this is absolutely imperative, fennel seeds are what *make* Italian sausage)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (more if you like it hot)

Use your hands and get it really well-mixed and get all the spices distributed. Go on, get dirty. Once all the spices are mixed it, it’s ready to be used just like you would a store-bought pound of Italian sausage. I used mine in a tomato sauce over fresh pasta. Yum!


What’s your favorite kitchen substitution?

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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37 Responses
  1. Natalie

    Ok thank you for this post – helped so much when my grocery store only had ground breakfast sausage and I was making a homemade bolognese sauce for lasagna!!! Turned out absolutely delicious and what an easy fix!!

  2. I don’t know that you’ll see my answer in time, but I’m wondering if I need to grind the fennel seeds or add them to the mix whole. I soooo looking forward to making this sausage. In the stores IS is quite pricey, then adding to injury, my butcher of choice doesn’t turn out a good Italian sausage (the seasonings are off). Thank you!

    1. Danielle @Wholefully

      Hi, Julie! We use whole fennel seeds in this and mix them right in with everything else. We hope your sausage turned out just the way you wanted!

  3. Susie Quentin

    You saved the day! I thought I had Italian sausage in the freezer, and all I could find was bulk pork sausage. I was making a kale-sausage soup and it came out great. Thanks!

  4. Kathy

    Thank you so much! I also live a distance from a store and believe in making do! So your my kind of gal! I also have sausage and need Italian so I’m going to give this a go!
    Thank you!

  5. Glennie

    Thanks to Google and YOU, I now have delicious spaghetti sauce! Due to covid it’s really hard to find Italian sausage these days. Fennel is THE most important ingredient and fortunately I always have a jar on hand because it always goes on my home made pizzas. Thank you SO much!

  6. zanoni V

    i was given a huge amount of precooked breakfast sausage caseless links and was thinking about trying to get an Italian flavor in it. I know how to make Italian sausage fresh but this will be interesting. so, I am going to toast the fennel, rosemary and then pound the poop out of it in my mortar and pestle. then i will add it to the sausage when I brown it before I put it in my recipe (a soup). i’m just putting this out there in case someone else is stuck with precooked links and want to do something but think that because it is precooked you can’t.

  7. Sandra

    Thanks for the recipe. Pork sausage is much cheaper than Italian.. This recipe is great. thanks for saving my planned meal that required Italian sausage

  8. Judy

    Thank you…I’m so excited to find this recipe with so many positive comments. I looked for this recipe because my family loved the Olive Garden copycat Zuppa Toscana recipe I made, but the Italian sausage was SO much more expensive than regular sausage. Great to know I can make it for less.

  9. Joan

    I did a change up on this recipe. I bought 1 pound chubs of breakfast pork sausage for 25 cents each. They needed to sell it by expiration date. I bought 10. Then as I walked by their breads, they had kaiser 8 pack buns for 5 cents each. A very good shopping day!! I used this recipe and made hamburger type patties. This recipe made excellent burgers. I served with vidalias, mustard, etc. and salads. Quite a nice meal for a few cents..

  10. Jenni Graham

    I live in the U.K. and had seen a recipe for a baked pasta dish, which I wanted to make, it called for minced (ground) beef and Italian sausage, which I’d never even heard of! So I turned to the trusty internet, and up popped a link to this recipe ? Again, we don’t have breakfast sausage in the U.K., so I just used pork sausages, cut the skins off and proceeded as per the recipe. The result was delicious!! Thank you for posting this.

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