Call it stuffing, call it dressing, but don’t call it Stove Top because my homemade sausage apple stuffing with leeks and butternut squash is so much better than that store-bought cardboard wannabe. This recipe starts with a standard bread stuffing and builds on the flavors from there with fresh vegetables, savory spiced sausage and sweet, tart bits of seasonal fruit. My daughter calls this my “Famous Butternut Stuffing” because those little tidbits of squash really perk up this Thanksgiving casserole.
Just between you and me, the stuffing is always my favorite part of any holiday meal, especially when it goes beyond the average bread stuffing. This easy recipe delivers with traditional fall flavors in a tidy Thanksgiving casserole.
Why A Casserole Instead Of Stuffing The Bird?
Standard food safety concerns aside, my Mom and both grandmothers always stuffed their turkeys and there would usually be another Thanksgiving casserole for any leftover dressing that wouldn’t fit in the turkey cavity. I noticed that the baked casseroles always seemed to get eaten first, because they had crispy, craggily edges and that golden brown crown. Whereas the stuff that came out of the bird — well, it looked like stuff that came out of a bird. Kind of mushy-gray with flecks of whatever mixed in. For me, it’s about the flavors and textures –for that, the casserole wins, hands down.
Ingredients For Sausage Apple Stuffing with Leeks and Butternut Squash
- Butternut Squash
- Granny Smith Apple
- Dried Cranberries
- Dried Rosemary
- Ground Bay Leaves (optional)
- Chicken Broth
What Type Of Sausage To Use For This Thanksgiving Casserole?
You can use your favorite type, so long as it can be crumbled and browned like I’ve shown above. If you like spicy Italian… go for it. I used Jimmy Dean “Sage” flavor to reinforce the sage that’s included in this sausage apple bread stuffing recipe.
- Pork Breakfast Sausage
- Italian Sausage (mild or hot)
- Chicken Sausages
Tips For Making Sausage Apple Butternut Stuffing
Best Bread For Bread Stuffing & Preparation:
I prefer a sturdy Italian, Sourdough or even a Ciabatta. Buy the bread a few days ahead of time and let it rest on the counter to get stale.
Stale bread is important because if it’s too fresh and spongy, it will soak up the liquids and get mushy.
Pro Tip: Trim the crusts from the bread and cut it into an even dice. Place the bread cubes in a very large bowl and spread out the cubes so they get as much air contact as possible. Leave them out overnight, exposed to the air to promote drying out the bread.
This stuffing comes together fairly quickly if you’ve prepped everything before you start cooking. It’s just a matter of browning the sausage, and sauteeing the apples and vegetables, then tossing in the bread cubes and moistening with broth.
Vegetable Tips For Butternut Apple Bread Stuffing:
When you’re chopping the vegetables and apples, make sure they’re chopped to an equal size, that promotes even cooking and you’ll end up with tender-firm vegetables that hold up in the Thanksgiving casserole instead of turning to mush. That’s what you want.
Leeks are a mild, onion-y vegetable with multiple layers. As the leeks grow, dirt and grit can get sandwiched between the layers.
- To clean the leeks, cut off the furry root and discard.
- Slice the leeks in half vertically and then chop them into 1/2″ moons using only the white and pale green parts.
- Transfer leeks to a large bowl of water and swish with your fingers. The dirt will fall to the bottom of the bowl and the leeks will float.
- Transfer leeks to a salad spinner and dry thoroughly.
Butternut is a mild-sweet fall squash with a nutty flavor. Though it’s very hard when raw, it will sauté to a firm-tender consistency.
- Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin from the squash.
- Use a sharp Chef’s knife to slice the squash vertically in half. (Be careful – it can be tough to get through — I like to start at the bulbous end where it’s hollow to get the cutting started)
- Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard.
- Chop the squash into a small (1/4″ to 1/3″ dice).
Recently, the celery I’ve gotten has been all over the board in terms of size (some stalks are 2″ thick while others aren’t even 1″), the key is to chop the celery to the same size as the Butternut Squash.
I used Granny Smith’s for the sausage apple stuffing because they are more tart than sweet and are good cooking apples, but you can use other apples as well.
Also Good To Try:
- Pink Lady
Incidentally, this Sausage Apple Stuffing can be made ahead — even a day or two ahead — and cooked when you’re ready to eat… Unless you like making 20 dishes from scratch on Thanksgiving Day.
More Thanksgiving Casseroles & Sides:
- Sweet Potato and Apple Breakfast Strata
- Simple Scalloped Potatoes
- Tangy Glazed Stovetop Brussels Sprouts
- Savory Sweet Potato Casserole
Sausage Leek Butternut Stuffing
- 2 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/2 pound breakfast sausage I used Jimmy Dean “Sage”
- 1 cup onion 1/4″ dice
- 1 stalk celery 1/4″ dice
- 2 leeks pale green parts only
- 2 cups butternut squash peeled, seeded, cut into 1/4″ dice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt divided
- 1 large granny smith apple peeled, seeded, cut into 1/4″ dice
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1 teaspoon dried sage crumbled
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon ground bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
- 8 cups day old bakerybread, preferably sourdough or ciabatta crusts removed, cut into 1″ dice
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons butter cut into small cubes
- Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray a large casserole dish with vegetable spray and set aside.
- Slice the leeks in half vertically, then chop them into 1/4″ moons. Fill a large bowl with water and add the leeks to the water. Swish the leeks in the water with you hand, dislodging any grit or dirt that may be between the layers. Lift the leeks (do not pour them out) with your hands into a salad spinner. Spin to dry and set aside.
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with the back of a spoon or fork until crumbled and browned.
- Add the onion, celery, leeks, squash and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine, cover with a lid and cook for 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.
- Add apples, cranberries, sage, rosemary, bay leaves and remaining kosher salt and pepper to the vegetables. Stir to combine and cook for 3-5 minutes or until apples are tender and cranberries are softened.
- Remove from heat and add bread cubes a handful at a time, tossing to combine after each addition. Add broth 1/4-1/2 cup at a time until the bread is moistened but not falling apart. (I ended up using about 1 3/4 cups of broth for this step.) Taste for seasoning and adjust to your tastes.
- Transfer the stuffing mixture to the prepared casserole dish and dot with butter. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is crusty and browned.