spices for hot italian sausage?

I have a lasagna recipe that I like a lot. I’ve tried to reduce the fat content a bit, with one major change being 1 pound of Italian sausage together with 1 pound of very lean ground beef, rather than two pounds of Italian sausage. Predictably, this also eliminates all of the spices that were included in that missing pound of sausage, with a commensurate loss of flavor.

So what spices (and in roughly what amounts) would I add to the ground beef to make up for what departed with the phantom sausage? The sausage I use is Johnsonville HOT Italian sausage, which (to me) has a particularly good flavor. I’d love to be able to come close to this.


Why not use a lean pork? That would be more authentic right? I always thought the characteristic flavor of “Italian sausage” was fennel seeds or anise. At least, that’s what stands out to me and what I dislike about it… but I really thought it was quintessential to it.

I found this recipe that might help:

20 pounds ground pork
1/8 cup salt
1/4 cup garlic salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup ground paprika
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon anise seed
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1/8 cup red pepper flakes

Place the ground pork into a large bowl. Season with salt, garlic salt, black pepper and paprika. In a blender or food processor, blend together the oil, anise seed, fennel seed and red pepper flakes. Mix everything into the ground pork until well blended. Refrigerate for 24 hours to let flavors blend. Bag and freeze in portions that suit your needs.
Also I found a list of ingrediants in the Johnsonville hot italian sausge and the list of spices are:

I just thought it was funny that for spices they list “spice”.

ETA: Fuzzy is right on the money with the fennel and anise. Also I just noticed the amount of ingrediants. 20 pounds? that’s a lot of sausage so maybe you can figure out the proportions on the spices.

Yeah, fennel is the really essential one-- That’s what I was going to suggest, too. Anise I’ve never noticed in sausage, but then again, it’s one of those spices which, when used right, you don’t notice, or notice only barely (unless you’re making licorice).

Definitely fennel, definitely generic “red pepper flakes” for the hot variety. Don’t think there’s too much else…

I’ve used Bruce Aidell’s recipe in the past, and very good it was:

3 lb Pork, butt
3/4 lb Pork, fat
1 tb Garlic, minced
4 ts Salt, kosher
2 tb Fennel, seed
1 ts Pepper, cayenne
1 tb Pepper, red, dried, flakes
2 ts Pepper, black, freshly ground
1/4 c dry red wine

Grind the meat and fat, stir in the seasonings, and use in your recipe. If you’re making links, stuff into medium hog casings.

I’d say either Tahssa’s or Teela Brown’s recipes have the right ingredients (I like the red wine in Teela’s), but I’d think that Tahssa’s recipe is a bit light on the quantity of each ingredient (except the salt) for 20lbs of pork.

My advice, regardless of which recipe you choose, is to mix it up, then cook off a little and taste, before packaging up the entire batch. Once cooked, you can’t add much more spicing, and expect it to make much of a difference.

Anise is a similar flavor to fennel, so it may be difficult to notice when used in Italian sausage (as opposed to only fennel). I’ve only used anise in a certain type of Mexican sausage. For me, the standard flavorings that we generically call “Italian sausage” here in America are fennel, garlic, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. As you stated, fennel is the signature flavor.

Fnahhr,fnahhr,Hot Italian sausage definitely comes across as some sort of double entendre’.
But then again I’m a very sick individual.

I’ll get my coat.

That’s close to the recipe I use. You need a lot of fennel. That one with twenty pounds of pork and only one tablespoon of fennel? You’d have a good chance of having entire links without fennel. I use allspice in mine instead of anise, but anise would be a nice variation.