Italian sausage links are a flavorful and versatile sausage that can be served in many ways. As a protein, they pair well with a variety of sides and ingredients. Choosing the right accompaniments can enhance the Italian sausage flavor and create a delicious meal.
What are Italian sausage links?
Italian sausage links are a type of fresh pork sausage seasoned with traditional Italian herbs and spices. The seasonings usually include fennel seed, garlic, black pepper, chili pepper flakes, and parsley. The seasoning provides a distinct savory and slightly spicy flavor.
Italian sausage links come in a few varieties:
- Sweet Italian sausage has fennel as the dominant seasoning and only mild spiciness from black pepper.
- Hot Italian sausage packs more heat from the addition of red pepper flakes.
- Traditional Italian sausage is a balance between sweet and spicy.
The sausage mixture is stuffed into casings to form individual links. When cooked, the casings get browned and crispy on the outside while the interior becomes juicy and flavorful.
What foods pair well with Italian sausage links?
There are many delicious options for what to serve alongside Italian sausage links. Here are some of the most popular pairings:
Roasted vegetables are an easy complement to Italian sausage. They add color to the plate and balance out the richness of the meat. Good veggie choices include:
- Peppers – Roaste red, yellow, or green bell peppers
- Onions – Sliced red or yellow onions
- Zucchini – Grilled or roasted zucchini slices
- Eggplant – Grilled eggplant rounds or cubes
- Potatoes – Roasted potato wedges or chunks
- Tomatoes – Sliced roma or cherry tomatoes
For extra flavor, toss the veggies in Italian dressing or herbs before roasting.
Hearty grains make a satisfying accompaniment to sausage links. They can soak up any fats or juices released during cooking too. Some good options include:
- Polenta – Grilled slices of seasoned polenta
- Couscous – Fluffy couscous tossed with herbs
- Orzo – Orzo pasta salad with Italian dressing
- Bread – Thick slices of crusty artisan bread
Potatoes are another excellent pairing with Italian sausage. Ways to serve them include:
- Home fries – Diced, seasoned, and pan-fried potatoes
- Roasted potatoes – Halved mini potatoes roasted with olive oil and rosemary
- Mashed potatoes – Smooth and creamy mashed russet or yukon gold potatoes
- Potato salad – Chilled potato salad with mustard, vinegar, and herbs
For an easy one-pot meal, simmer the sausage links right in your favorite pasta sauce. Some pasta shapes that pair well with sausage include:
Or serve the cooked sausage links over the pasta, spooning extra sauce on top.
For a more filling side, prepare rice to serve with the sausages. Recommended varieties include:
- Risotto – Creamy, cheesy risotto
- Herbed rice – Rice pilaf with Italian seasoning
- Polenta – Soft, simmered polenta
- Arborio rice – Tossed with sauteed vegetables
The heartiness of beans balances the richness of Italian sausage. Try serving:
- White beans – Cannellini or great northern beans
- Chickpeas – Roasted chickpeas with Italian spices
- Lentils – Braised lentils with tomatoes and spinach
- Fava beans – Sauteed fava beans and peas
Full meal ideas with Italian sausage links
Using the suggested side pairings above, here are some complete meal ideas featuring Italian sausage links:
Sheet Pan Sausage and Veggies
- Italian sausage links
- Bell peppers and onions
- New potatoes
Roast on a sheet pan at 400°F for 30-40 minutes.
- Grilled Italian sausage
- Ciabatta rolls
- Sauteed peppers and onions
- Provolone cheese
Build sandwiches on the rolls with veggies and cheese.
Sausage and Orzo
- Italian sausage links
- Orzo pasta
- Marinara sauce
- Fresh basil
- Parmesan cheese
Simmer sausage in marinara sauce, stir in orzo to cook, top with basil and parmesan.
Sausage Rice Bowl
- Italian sausage
- Herbed rice
- Sauteed zucchini
Assemble all ingredients in a bowl.
- Pre-cooked Italian sausage, sliced
- Pizza dough
- Marinara sauce
- Sliced bell peppers
- Mozzarella cheese
Top dough with sauce, sausage, veggies, and cheese and bake.
Complementary flavors and ingredients
There are some additional ingredients that pair especially well with Italian sausage due to complementary flavors:
- Peppers – Bell peppers, chili peppers, pepperoncinis
- Onions – Red, yellow, white, or shallots
- Mushrooms – Sauteed or roasted
- Olives – Kalamata, green, or black olives
- Greens – Spinach, kale, chard
- Cheese – Mozzarella, parmesan, provolone, ricotta
When planning a meal with Italian sausage, consider incorporating some of these ingredients to add lots of flavor.
How to cook Italian sausage links
Italian sausage links can be prepared in a variety of ways. Here are some cooking methods and tips:
The easiest way to cook sausage links is to pan fry them in a skillet over medium heat. Cook, turning occasionally, until browned on both sides and cooked through, about 10 minutes total. Pour off excess fat.
Grilled sausages get nice char marks and smoky flavor. Cook over direct medium heat, rotating occasionally, for 8-12 minutes.
For a hands-off cooking method, arrange sausages on a baking sheet and bake at 375°F for 15-20 minutes until browned and cooked through.
To infuse extra flavor, simmer sausages in tomato sauce, broth, beer, or wine for 15-20 minutes before serving.
- Always cook thoroughly to an internal temperature of 160°F.
- Natural casings can be peeled off after cooking if desired.
- Let rest for 5 minutes after cooking before slicing or serving.
- Uncooked sausage can be kept refrigerated 3-4 days or frozen 1-2 months.
Top recipes with Italian sausage links
Try out these delicious recipes that showcase Italian sausage:
|Sausage and Peppers||
|Loaded Sausage Potato Bake||
|Italian Sausage Soup||
Frequently asked questions
What drinks pair well with Italian sausage?
Bold red wines like Chianti or Cabernet Sauvignon pair nicely with the savory spices of Italian sausage. Lighter beers also complement the flavors. Iced tea or lemonade can help cut the richness.
Can I use Italian sausage in pasta sauce?
Absolutely. Browning Italian sausage and simmering it in marinara or tomato sauce adds tons of flavor. Make Bolognese with half ground beef and half sausage.
What’s the best way to reheat cooked sausage links?
Reheating in a skillet over medium-low heat keeps the texture best, especially if you want to crisp the casings again. Microwaving is okay for a quick reheating.
How long does uncooked Italian sausage last in the fridge?
Raw Italian sausage links in the original sealed packaging will keep 3-4 days in the refrigerator. For longer storage, freeze sausage for 1-2 months.
Is sweet or hot Italian sausage more popular?
It’s very much a matter of personal taste. Many people prefer the milder flavor of sweet Italian sausage. Others like the kick of heat from hot Italian sausage. Go with your own preferences.
With their savory seasoning and versatile flavor, Italian sausage links can be served so many ways. Vegetables, grains, pastas, and more all make tasty accompaniments. Just remember to always cook the sausage thoroughly. Use the recipes and serving ideas in this article to start making your own delicious meals featuring Italian sausage links.