Summer Sundays when I was growing up meant an early morning trip to Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn-we had to get there very early to get one of the few picnic spots available. Other family members would arrive soon after, until there were 15 or 20 adults and children assembled, often feeling rather chilled in the stiff morning breeze. We wrapped ourselves in beach towels and drank cups of hot coffee. The barbecue would be lit, and soon we would be eating scrambled eggs and grilled Italian-style sausages for breakfast.
These were not just any sausages. My mother, like her mother before her, had only one or two pork butchers that she trusted in our Brooklyn neighborhood. She knew she could rely on them because the butcher made the sausages while she watched, adding only fresh chunks of pork, trimmed of connective tissue. She would never dream of buying sausages anywhere else.
Juicy, plump pork sausage links called salsicce are a specialty of central and southern Italian cooking. The sausages should be pink and meaty, with just enough fat to make them moist and tasty. Though there are variations, most Italians do not care for sausages flavored with anything more exotic than salt and black pepper. Exceptions include sweet sausage with fennel seed and hot sausages with a dose of ground red chile. One Neapolitan specialty is the long thin sausage flavored with flat parsley and grated Pecorino Romano that is coiled into a large wheel held together with wooden pegs. These are not used as an ingredient in a stew or a ragù, but they are great on the barbecue.
Northern Italians prefer luganega, a mild pork sausage that is stuffed into a long casing and either tied into long narrow links or coiled into a tight spiral. Sometimes Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or nutmeg is added.
If you can't get freshly made pork sausages from a butcher, just use the best you can find, avoiding those flavored with pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, or other nontypical flavorings.
From "1,000 Italian Recipes." Copyright 2004 by Michele Scicolone. Used with permission of the publisher, Wiley Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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