Italian Fennel Sausage Pizza

Italian Fennel Sausage Pizza

Italian Fennel Sausage Pizza

Yields one 12” pizza


This pizza recipe appeared in the latest issue of Rifle Loony News, but here I have more room to elaborate.  So let’s do that.  For the RLN pizza I used grated mozzarella cheese, but if you can find a better mozzarella, say packed in water, and fresh, use that instead.  The better the ingredients, the better the flavor.

There are at least two easy ways to make pizza at home. One is to use a 12 inch round Boboli ready to use crust. I always choose thin crust, but Boboli makes the thicker crusts too.  The other way is to use a refrigerator crust, like Pillsbury’s pizza crust, which you then set in a cookie sheet and can spread out a little for a thick crust pizza or spread thinly over the whole length and width of a standard 10.5×17” cookie sheet for a thin crust.  The 10×17 sheet will take about twice as much toppings as the 12 inch round, though, so feeds more people, but takes more ingredients.  Your choice.

And while this pizza is cooked in the oven, you can also cook it on a 350F degree grill, as long as you place it on the side where the fire isn’t, known as indirect cooking. Place it over the fire directly and the crust burns before the cheese melts.

So, what’s the difference between pork shoulder and pork butt? And why do I ask that? Despite its name, pork butt is upper shoulder meat, and has more marbled fat than pork ‘shoulder’ which is lower on the leg with less fat.  (See the note at the end of this recipe, on why I used commercial pork butt for this specific recipe. Hint: it’s not about the marbled fat.)

One more note: Make the sausage ahead of time, then let it sit in the fridge 8-24 hours to let the flavors develop.


  • 6 ounces ground red meat
  • 10 ounces ground pork butt
  • ⅜ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon non-iodized salt
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 2 teaspoons whole peppercorns
  • 4 teaspoons whole fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon salt*
  • ½ cup bottled pizza sauce
  • 12” pizza round (like a Boboli© thin crust)
  • 8 ounces grated mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 30-36 thinly sliced pepperoni
  • ¼ red onion, sliced thin
  • ½ yellow sweet bell pepper, sliced thin

Prepping the sausage

  1. Combine the ground red meat and ground pork in your stand mixer’s mixing bowl. Dissolve the baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon salt in the cold water in a cup, then add the water mixture and spices to the mixing bowl.
  2. Mix on the medium setting for 1-1½ minutes, until the mixture stiffens a bit and is easily shaped into a ball, and stays in that ball.  (That stiffer texture is sausage texture as opposed to ground meat crumbles.)

Assembling the pizza on a cutting board

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. In a large skillet, break up the sausage and lightly brown over medium-high heat. Set aside.
  2. Spread the pizza sauce all over the dough, then mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, then pre-cooked Italian sausage and pepperoni, sliced sweet bell pepper and onion.
  3. Transfer the pizza to the oven, on that cutting board, gently sliding it directly onto the rack.  (Nothing underneath, so the crust doesn’t get soggy) and bake 8-10 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. When done, use a pair of tongs to gently grasp one end of the crust and slide the pizza back on the cutting board.  Slice and enjoy!

*I like to use kosher salt just because it is less likely to have additives like anti-caking agents and iodine.  But regular table salt will work, as long as it has no iodine. Iodine can add an ‘off’ flavor.

PS  The spices in this recipe are from Sausage Season’s Italian Fennel Sausage, adjusted to a 1 pound recipe. If you don’t like fennel, there are several other Italian oriented spice mixes in the book.

Cutting boards, especially if they have a slot/handle for better control, are handy for sliding pizzas into and out of the oven.

Going in you can just tip the board and gently push the pizza onto the cooking rack with your bare hand; coming out, grab a pair of tongs and gently pull the pizza back onto the cutting board.

For a really crisp crust, then slide it onto a cookie cooling rack to let it cool without creating ‘toast sweat.’

Wild Pork vs Store Bought

This Fennel Sausage recipe is quite a bit different in meat/fat input than in Sausage Season.  Why? Sausage Season is 99.9% paleo sausage book.  Meat, fat, spices, period. Stuff our Cro-Magnon ancestors might have on hand, nothing you can’t pronounce, with complete control over fat, salt and what part of the animal we choose to include in the sausage that will sit on our forks and eventually end up in our mouths.  Paleo, before herding and feeding animals for the market.  And packaging them with an expiration date, then keeping them just below freezing-solid temps for weeks.

I’ll stop ranting, because in fact, that packaging and sitting time create a short cut and is why I used it here.  Add in the bit of baking soda and this recipe goes together in less time than it takes to sing Happy Birthday.

So, again, Why? It’s about the chemistry.  In Sausage Season I created a 3-Step Process (idiot-proof and natural) for making creamy, tasty sausage out of crumbly all-natural wild ground meat and a dose of commercial pig fat.  Follow the 3-Step Process–mix, chill and mix–and it works every time.

The first ‘mix’ in that progression is adding spices, and that always includes salt, and letting the salt sit on the meat overnight so it breaks down the myosin proteins, binding meat molecules to fat, and creating sausage texture. (Myosin proteins are motor proteins best known for their roles in muscle contraction–thus not soft and cuddly by definition.) Since the salt in commercial pork sits on the meat a lot longer, even though it’s not listed on the label, it is there. Trust me. Otherwise this short cut would not work. There may even be nitrates which make it work really fast. (Which, ummm, well, we’re not going there, and I didn’t say that in print.) Point is commercial pork butt makes the science of The 3-Step work much faster.

The pig fat I use in Sausage Season is ‘trim,’ which is not processed and packaged by meat packers but sold in loose, clean, cheaper, chunks of just-pig-fat in plastic bags. When mixed with deer/elk, moose, even wild pig butt the combo does not react the way commercial pork butt does.  Wild meat, with untreated fat need the 3-Step Process to get the same results.  For small batches as here, though, the extra cost is negligible.

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