Spicy Ciabatta & Cornbread Stuffing with Italian Sausage, Wild Mushrooms & Fresh Herbs

If I could have only one dish this Thanksgiving, it would be a tossup between this stuffing and this tart. Wait, I also need these rolls, these mashed potatoes, and this gravy. Okay, it’s hopeless; may as well throw in this salad and this turkey.

But even though each of these dishes is memorable, I bet this stuffing wins “Best of Show” at our Thanksgiving table this year. I can’t seem to get enough of it.

Luckily, it is nearly a meal in itself, complete with two types of bread, spicy Italian sausage, a full pound of mushrooms, an array of veggies, several fresh herbs, and a killer seasoning mix. Plus, a SECRET ingredient that puts the whole thing over the top.

So, after the big day is history, and the week of leftovers has begun, I will feel perfectly satisfied with many meals consisting of a big mound of this stuffing, a tiny sliver of turkey, and a dollop of fresh cranberry sauce. In fact, I can’t wait.

NOTE   If you have never had stuffing made from fresh, dried bread, you are in for a revelation. I doubt you will ever go back to the ubiquitous little bread cubes in the box. Not only is the flavor so much better with fresh, dried bread, but the roughly torn edges contribute significantly to the wonderful, varied texture. And as for combining two types of bread in the stuffing, all I can say to that is WOW. I’ll never do it any other way.

Spicy Ciabatta & Cornbread Stuffing with Italian Sausage, Wild Mushrooms & Fresh Herbs

This is the absolute best stuffing I have ever eaten. It evolved over many years, with the original inspiration from Louisiana chef, Paul Prudhomme. The genius behind Chef Prudhomme’s stuffing (intended for grilled, double-cut pork chops) is the VANILLA. It is spectacular in this stuffing, as is the spicy seasoning mix.

Ciabatta & Cornbread
1 pound prepared Aunt Elfred’s Cornbread (or Trader Joe’s ready-made cornbread) (both breads have some sweetness, which is perfect for this stuffing)
10 ounces soft, porous, thin-crusted ciabatta bread

Seasoning Mix (makes 3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne, optional (especially good if your sausage is not spicy)

Sausage & Veggies
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more as needed
1 pound hot Italian pork sausage, casings removed
1 pound small crimini or wild mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 cup trimmed, chopped onions
1 cup cored, ribbed, seeded, chopped sweet Italian peppers
1 cup trimmed, chopped celery
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced

½ cup trimmed, chopped green onions
½ cup minced parsley leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon minced rosemary leaves

1-2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon vanilla

fine sea salt, to taste

  1. To prepare the cornbread and ciabatta, tear each into rough pieces, about ¾-inch in size. Heat oven to 300°F. Arrange torn bread separately on 2 edged cookie sheets and bake until totally dry and crisp, about 30 minutes for the ciabatta and 60 minutes for a very moist cornbread. Remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheets.
  2. To prepare the seasoning mix, in a medium mixing bowl, combine salt, paprika, thyme, oregano, dry mustard, cumin, cinnamon, white pepper, black pepper, and optional cayenne. Reserve.
  3. To prepare the sausage mixture, in a large saute pan, over medium-high heat, melt the butter, and brown the pork sausage until fat is rendered (there shouldn’t be much), and sausage is cooked through and well browned, about 5 minutes. Remove sausage to a large mixing bowl.
  4. To prepare the mushrooms, in the same pan, over medium-high heat, add a little more butter if necessary, and add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms render their liquid and most of it evaporates. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove mushrooms to the large mixing bowl with the sausage.
  5. To prepare the onion mixture, in the same pan, over medium-high heat, add a little more butter if necessary, and add onions. Saute until onions are softened but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add peppers, celery, and garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove onion mixture to the large mixing bowl with the sausage.
  6. To complete the stuffing mixture, add green onions, parsley, sage, thyme and rosemary to the large mixing bowl. Gently and thoroughly combine.
  7. Add the dried, torn bread, and with a large mixing spoon, combine everything.
  8. To moisten the stuffing, to 1 cup of chicken stock, add the vanilla, stir, and then drizzle over the stuffing. Gently and thoroughly combine, and then let the mixture rest for 15 minutes to allow the bread to absorb the liquid. Then taste and add another ½ cup of chicken stock if necessary. (I used 1½ cups of chicken stock in total.) Don’t add so much stock that the stuffing becomes soggy.
  9. To season the stuffing, add 2 tablespoons of the seasoning mix, toss to combine well and then taste the stuffing. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon seasoning mix if you wish (as I did). Season with additional salt if necessary.
  10. To hold until later, cover the stuffing and refrigerate until ready to bake and serve.
  11. To bake, heat the oven to 350°F. Butter two 6-cup capacity baking dishes and scoop half the stuffing into each. Cover each dish with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, until heated through.
  12. To serve, remove from the oven and serve hot.

Makes 2 casseroles; serves 8-10.

Additional Inspiration

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About Susan S. Bradley

Intrepid cook, food writer, culinary instructor, author of Pacific Northwest Palate: Four Seasons of Great Cooking, and founder of the Northwest Culinary Academy.


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  2. Mele Christmas, Susan…say, how far in advance could I make this & hold in the fridge? Also, does it need to be uncovered during the last few (how many) minutes of baking to be crusty? Could you actually stuff a turkey with this instead of making it like a casserole? Thanks in advance, Kate (who will be making turkey for Christmas).

    • Kate, Merry Christmas! :-) You can make this a couple of days in advance (at least) if you like. If you want a crust, yes, uncover it during the final 10-15 minutes of baking. And also yes, it makes a great turkey stuffing. Hope everything turned out well for the big celebration!

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  6. Thanks Susan, this looks like a great use for our Hot Italian Sausage. Love the idea of using two types of bread as well. Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. Oh Susan! I think this may be the stuffing of my dreams. I’ve never thought about using more than one type of bread for my stuffing, but this is the second time in a week I’ve seen a recipe doing so. This recipe is very similar to how I normally make my stuffing, but with the volume turned up – a few additional spices, spicy sausage instead of mild, ciabatta and cornbread. We’ll be with family on Thursday and we’re not responsible for bringing the stuffing, so sadly I’ll have to wait a few extra days before I get a chance to try this – but we have a turkey thawing in our fridge right now for Turkey dinner #2 and I’ll will definitely be making it for that! I can hardly wait!
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  8. I also have an Italian sausage-based stuffing, but I love the ingredients in your recipe, so I’ll definitely need to ‘upgrade’ my recipe; this just sounds so delicious! Using ciabatta bread is a GREAT idea that I never thought of!


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