Every year, my mother and I dress our great American Thanksgiving bird with this stuffing, which bows deeply to our Italian heritage. It came, with proportions improvised annually, from the memory of my late grandmother. Spicy, rich, and dense, it’s filled with meat, eggs, cheese, and a smattering of green: truly an omnivore’s stuffing. To eat it is to feel warmed and fortified for a long winter, a long nap, and all that the season presents.
Because I had some, and because I couldn’t resist meddling, I added a bit of chopped parsley to the mix below. It’s not original to the recipe, but it is appropriate. “Parsley” was the nickname my grandmother and mother gave to anyone–namely me–who liked to get themselves into the middle of everything. As a child, I loved to dip my fingers into the mixing bowl as my mother made stuffing. It was on a pretense of helping, but the idea was to steal as much stuffing as possible. Eventually she’d say, “That’s enough, Parsley.”
Passerini Family Meat Stuffing
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
1 lb. hot Italian sausage
1 lb. lean ground beef
About 2 cups plain bread crumbs
About 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
About 1/2 cup chicken stock (have about 2 cups on hand; if you use canned stock or bouillon cubes, dilute your broth a bit with water or buy a reduced-sodium stock)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Press the sausage meat out of its casings into a large skillet. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. As it cooks, break the meat up with a wooden spoon into very small pieces of less than an inch. When cooked through, remove from heat and drain off as much fat as possible. Remove the sausage to a very large bowl to let cool.
Meanwhile, in another large skillet over medium-high heat (if you don’t have two skillets, you can do this in the same pan after you’ve cooked the sausage; just wash your pan), heat the olive oil for a moment. Add your onion and celery and cook, stirring, until onions are translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the ground beef, stirring and breaking it up as above. When cooked through, drain off as much fat as possible, and remove to the same bowl as the sausage to let cool.
Add about 1 cup bread crumbs, 1/2 cup cheese, the parsley, eggs, and about 1/2 cup stock to the meat and mix well, preferably with your hands. Taste it, and use your judgment. Add the rest of your ingredients as needed. You want the stuffing to be moist, even sticky–it will dry out somewhat in the oven–but still firmly holding together.
Spoon the stuffing into a large, fairly shallow casserole dish. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, when the top will be brown and gently crusted. Of course, you can stuff your fowl of choice with it as well.
Stuffing may be made and refrigerated one day in advance of baking.
Makes about 8 cups.