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Chestnut Stuffing Recipe with Italian Sausage

This recipe for chestnut stuffing with sausage is the perfect Thanksgiving side dish for roast turkey. Stuffing ingredients include sweet Italian sausage, fennel, fresh herbs and chestnuts.

Complete chestnut stuffing recipe in a baking dish, ready to be served.

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Introduction

Let’s be honest.

How many take a bite of the Thanksgiving stuffing before the turkey?

Yeah, me too.

Today, I’m humbly sharing my definition of a great stuffing recipe perfect for a Thanksgiving dinner celebration.

If you are looking for a recipe with pounds of butter, sorry to disappoint you. This might not be the recipe for you.

I shall put on my dietitian’s hat to tell you that it’s not necessary.

Once you taste this stuffing, you will be pleasantly surprised at how much flavor it has without leaving you with that feeling of overindulgence. There is a flavor boost in recipes using Italian sausages -examples include this orecchiette recipe, sausage and peppers, or this Italian soup.

You will also love the convenience of this make-ahead stuffing, making it the perfect stress-free holiday recipe for your Thanksgiving table.

It is equally delicious whether you mix your turkey with it or bake it apart in an ovenproof casserole dish.

You will also love the versatility of this recipe.

If you prefer a classic combination, go ahead and replace the fennel with celery; don’t care for the sausage, eliminate it; can’t find fresh chestnuts, replace them with another nut like pecans or even walnuts. Do you love cranberries? Add a handful!

The variations are truly endless!

How to make traditional chestnut stuffing from scratch?

We will make bread cubes from scratch and dry them in the oven for this recipe. It might seem like an extra step, but you won’t believe how much flavorful broth freshly dried bread absorbs.

It is an investment of only 5 minutes.

The chicken (or vegetable) stock (or broth) is another flavor enhancer. If you have time to make your own, great. Otherwise, purchase a low-sodium broth.

The most time-consuming activity when making this stuffing recipe is preparing the chestnuts. Luckily, this can be done up to 3 days in advance. You can also use properly stored chestnuts.

If more convenient for you, you can purchase vacuum-packed chestnuts. You need about 12 ounces (340 grams) of chestnuts. 

Fresh chestnuts in a paper bag.

Let’s prep our recipe

Boiling the chestnuts: Use approximately 1 pound (450 grams) of chestnuts (in their shell) for this recipe. This will yield 12 ounces (340 grams). I have already shared with you how to parboil the chestnuts. Simply follow the link for all the details.

Make it ahead: The chestnuts can be prepared up to 3 days before you make this recipe. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to make your stuffing.

The crusts are being removed form a country style bread.

Slicing and drying out the bread: Preheat the oven to 250°F (120°C). Place the oven rack at the bottom level. Trim the crusts from the bread (approximately 1 pound or 450 grams ) and cut or tear them into  ½-1 inch cubes.

Cubed fresh bread on a rimmed baking sheet.

Spread the bread cubes, in a single layer, on one or two large-rimmed baking sheets. Bake for approximately 45-60 minutes or until completely dried but not browned. Stir occasionally.

The total time depends on the type of bread used. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool down to room temperature.

Prepping the vegetables: Dice 1 yellow onion (2 cups) and 1 fennel bulb (2 cups). Remove the fronds and the fennel core.

Prepping the fresh herbs: Chop Italian flat-leaf parsley (½ cup), sage (2 tablespoons), and thyme (1 tablespoon). 

Step-by-step instructions

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Place the oven rack on the middle level. Coat the inside of a deep 9 x 13-inch baking pan with about 1 tablespoon of room-temperature butter. Set aside.

Place the room-temperature toasted bread in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Italian sausage being cooked in a large skillet.

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet or saucepan. Add 1 pound of bulk sweet Italian sausage.

Use a fork or a potato masher to break the sausage meat into small pieces. Cook for approximately 8-10 minutes until no longer pink and lightly browned.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked sausage to a large shallow bowl to cool down. Leave the sausage fat in the pan.

Diced fennel and sweet onion in a saucepan being sauteed.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 4 tablespoons of butter to the saucepan. Add 1 large yellow onion (diced, about 2 cups) and 1 fennel bulb (about 2 cups).

Sauté onions and fennel over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes until cooked and just beginning to brown. Stir occasionally. 

Combining the stuffing ingredients

It’s time to combine the cooked Italian sausage and the sauteed vegetables with the fresh herbs and the rest of the ingredients. 

Sauteed onions and fennel added to sausage stuffing mixture.

In a large bowl, gently toss the toasted bread, sauteed sausage, and vegetables. 

Parsley, sage and thyme added to the chestnut stuffing in a bowl.

Add ½ cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage,1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Toss this bread mixture together and taste. Adjust seasonings. Add the parboiled chopped chestnuts (about 12 ounces). 

Slowly add 1¼ cup of room temperature chicken(or vegetable) broth and toss gently. The toasted bread will begin to rehydrate by absorbing this liquid.

If you squeeze the bread with your hands, the cubes should still feel crisp but begin to soften on the outside. Taste again and adjust for salt and pepper.

The chestnut stuffing recipe tossed together in a bowl.

Whisk together 2 eggs with about 1 cup of chicken broth. Add this liquid mixture to the stuffing and gently combine. 

At this point, you need to evaluate the texture of the bread to get the perfect stuffing with a crispy golden top and a soft bread pudding-like interior. 

Do the bread pieces feel spongy? If yes, there is enough liquid.

If the bread pieces still feel a little hard, you may want to add more broth. Add it in small quantities.

There should not be any liquid accumulating at the bottom of the dish. 

The chestnut stuffing in a large rectangular baking dish.

Transfer the stuffing to the prepared baking dish. Do not pack in the stuffing mixture, just let it drop naturally into the dish. Cover tightly with foil. Bake for approximately 40-45 minutes.

Remove the foil and continue to bake, uncovered, for another 20-30 minutes until the top is crispy and golden brown.

Remove from the oven. 

If desired, garnish with chopped parsley and serve immediately.

The crispy corner edge of chestnut stuffing.

To make ahead

The stuffing is best served on the day it is made. However, it is possible to make it the day before. Bake the stuffing. Then, remove from the oven, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate. Do not garnish with parsley at this point.

On the day you are planning to serve it, place it in a 350°F (175°C) oven, covered until heated; then remove the aluminum foil cover and continue to bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, garnish with chopped parsley and serve immediately. 

Tips

  • One pound of chestnuts (approximately 20 average-sized chestnuts with the shell) yields approximately 12 ounces (340 grams) of cooked chestnuts. This is approximately 2 cups.
  • The stuffing can be cooked up to 1 day before your holiday dinner and gently reheated.
  • With a sharp knife, cut through the casing with kitchen shears if you use sausage with casings. 

Do chestnuts taste good?

If you have never tasted chestnuts before, you might wonder what they taste like before making this stuffing recipe. Here is an article that explores what chestnuts taste like.

READ THE ARTICLE

FAQ

Can this be made into a vegetarian version?

Yes. Simply eliminate the sausage and use vegan butter. No other changes are necessary. 

What is the best way to cook chestnuts for this stuffing?

Since the chestnuts will be baked for over an hour, parboiling them prevents them from drying out. This simple step ensures that your finished dish will have chestnuts that will be moist and flavorful.

What is the best bread for stuffing?

The best stuffing uses dense, hearty bread that will not get soggy. Artisan, Country-Style white bread, crusty Italian bread, or any good quality white bread works well for this recipe. Another good option is sourdough bread, which is also dense and has a slightly tangy flavor that goes well with savory Thanksgiving flavors. Eggy brioche or challah can also be used.

How much broth do I need to add?

We add broth to the stuffing to rehydrate the dried-out bread. Therefore, you need to touch the bread and evaluate the texture to get the perfect stuffing with a crispy golden top and a soft bread pudding-like interior. 
Do the bread pieces feel spongy? If yes, there is enough liquid.
If the bread pieces still feel a little hard, you may want to add more broth. Add it in small quantities.
There should not be any liquid accumulating at the bottom of the dish. 

Is it stuffing or dressing?

A close up of the crispy top of the chestnut stuffing.

According to the Huffington Post, would you believe that your geographical location will dictate whether you refer to this Thanksgiving classic as stuffing or dressing? More specifically, if you hail from the South, you will call this dressing; if you hail from the North, you refer to it as stuffing. 

Food and Wine provide a technical argument -if cooked outside the bird, the correct term is dressing. 

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, regardless of what you call it, I think we should simply be grateful.

What’s better than one side dish? Two sides dishes, of course! These reader favorites will make your holiday table more exciting and delicious.

A portion of chestnut stuffing being lifted from the baking dish.

Recipe origins

If you have visited here before, you know that I love chestnuts.

The taste of chestnuts is incomparable to any other nut!

I enjoy having them roasted, boiled or pureed.

I also love using chestnut flour in recipes. One of my favorites is a Tuscan cake called Castagnaccio

Over the years, I have tweaked a recipe I originally found in a cookbook called Holiday Favorites by Williams-Sonoma.  

I replaced the tart apples with fennel, the sourdough bread with Crusty Italian bread, and played around with the variety and proportions of the herbs.

The sweetness of the fennel and the chestnuts complement the sausage perfectly in this Italian stuffing recipe.

That poor Thanksgiving turkey doesn’t stand a chance with this delicious savory stuffing!

Hoping you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with family and friends.

THANKS SO MUCH for following and being part of the She Loves Biscotti community where you will find Simple & Tasty Family-Friendly Recipes with an Italian Twist.

And if you are new here, welcome! You may want to sign up for my weekly e-mail newsletter. You can unsubscribe any time you want.

Ciao for now,

Maria

★★★★★ If you have made this Chestnut and Italian Sausage Stuffing Recipe, I would love to hear about it in the comments below and be sure to rate the recipe!

Recipe

A close up of the crispy topping of chestnut stuffing.

Chestnut Stuffing

This Chestnut Stuffing Recipe is the perfect Thanksgiving or holiday side dish for your roast turkey. Stuffing ingredients include sweet Italian sausage, fennel and chestnuts.

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Course: Side Dish

Cuisine: American

Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Servings: 12 servings

Calories: 385kcal

Author: Maria Vannelli RD

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Ingredients

  • tablespoons butter to butter the baking dish
  • 1 pound crusty white bread 450 grams, crust removed, oven dried in ½ inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil separated
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage bulk, casings removed
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large sweet onion diced, 2 cups
  • 1 fennel bulb diced, 2 cups
  • ½ cup Italian flat leaf parsley fresh
  • 2 tablespoons sage fresh, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon thyme fresh, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 12 ounces parboiled chestnuts chopped
  • 2¼-2½ cups vegetable or chicken broth separated
  • 2 eggs
  • extra chopped parsley to garnish

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Place the oven rack on the middle level.

  • Coat the inside of a deep 9 x 13-inch baking pan with about 1 tablespoon of room-temperature butter. Set aside.

  • Place the room-temperature toasted bread in a large bowl. Set aside.

  • In a large saucepan, over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

  • Add 1 pound of bulk sweet Italian sausage.

  • Use a fork or a potato masher to break the sausage into small pieces. Cook for approximately 8-10 minutes until no longer pink and lightly browned.

  • With a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked sausage to a large shallow bowl to cool down. Leave the sausage fat in the pan.

  • Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 4 tablespoons of butter to the saucepan.

  • Add 2 cups diced large yellow onion and 2 cups diced fennel bulb.

  • Sauté over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes until cooked and just beginning to brown. Stir occasionally. When done, set aside.

Combining the stuffing ingredients:

  • Add the sauteed sausage and vegetables to the bowl of toasted bread. Toss gently together.

  • Add the chopped fresh herbs (½ cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage,1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme).

  • Season with salt and pepper (1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper). Toss together and taste. Adjust seasonings.

  • Add the chopped parboiled chestnuts (about 12 ounces). 

  • Slowly add 1¼ cup of room-temperature chicken broth and toss gently together. The toasted bread will begin to rehydrate by absorbing this liquid.

  • Taste again and adjust for salt and pepper.

  • Whisk together 2 eggs with about 1 cup of chicken broth. Add this liquid mixture to the stuffing and gently combine. 

  • Evaluate if your mixture needs more broth.

  • Transfer the stuffing to the buttered baking dish. Do not pack in the mixture, just let it drop naturally into the dish.

  • Cover tightly with foil. Bake for approximately 40-45 minutes.

  • Remove the foil and continue to bake, uncovered, for another 20-30 minutes until the top is crispy and golden.

  • Remove from the oven. 

  • If desired, garnish with chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Scroll UP for the STEP by STEP PhotosDon’t miss the process shots and videos included in most posts. Simply scroll up the post to find them. Those were created especially for you so that you can make the recipe perfectly every single time you try it.

Notes

  • 1 pound of chestnuts (approximately 20 average-sized chestnuts with the shell) yields approximately 12 ounces (340 grams) of cooked chestnuts. This is approximately 2 cups.
  • The stuffing can be cooked up to 1 day before your holiday dinner and gently reheated.
  • Cut through and remove the casing with kitchen shears if you use sausage with casings.

Can this be made into a vegetarian version? Yes. Simply eliminate the sausage and use vegan butter.  
What is the best way to cook chestnuts for stuffing? Since the chestnuts will be baked for over an hour, parboiling them prevents them from drying out.
What kind of bread is the best? Artisan, Country-Style white bread, crusty Italian bread or any good quality white bread works well for this recipe. It’s really up to you.
How much broth do I need to add? We add broth to the stuffing to rehydrate the toasted bread. You need to touch the bread and evaluate the texture to get the perfect stuffing with a crispy golden top and a soft bread pudding-like interior. 
Do the bread pieces feel spongy? If yes, there is enough liquid. If the bread pieces still feel a little hard, you may want to add more broth. Add it in small quantities.
There should not be any liquid accumulating at the bottom of the pan. 
Please keep in mind that the nutritional information provided below is just a rough estimate and variations can occur depending on the specific ingredients used. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 385kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 70mg | Sodium: 704mg | Potassium: 482mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 491IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 99mg | Iron: 3mg

This post was originally published on November 21, 2019, and republished on November 5, 2022, with updated content and a video. Thanks for sharing.

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