Ina Garten Shares the Secret to Perfect Stuffing

Ina Garten developed the perfect stuffing recipe through trial and error. The Barefoot Contessa star reveals the one secret that makes all the difference for her delicious Thanksgiving side.

Ina Garten wears a blue shirt while smiling and toasting with a glass of wine
Ina Garten | Mike Smith/Getty Images

Ina Garten’s sausage and herb stuffing recipe is perfect for the holidays

Garten demonstrated how to make her sausage and herb stuffing recipe on an episode of Barefoot Contessa.

She cut bread into cubes, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and baked them in a 300 degree Fahrenheit oven for 7 minutes. “You can certainly make bread stuffing with fresh bread but I like to take a French boule, one of those round breads, cut it in big 1 inch cubes and then toast it … and what it does is it crisps it and it dries it out a little bit. And then it’ll absorb all the gorgeous flavors of the apples and the onions.”

The Food Network host melted butter in a large saute pan and added onions, celery, apples, parsley, salt, and pepper. “I have lots of chunky flavorful things in the stuffing,” she explained. The Barefoot Contessa star cooked the mixture over medium heat for 10 minutes, “until the apples are tender and delicious.”

In a bowl, she combined the bread cubes with the onion and apple mixture.

Ina Garten shared the secret to perfect Thanksgiving stuffing

Garten moved on to cooking the sausage for the stuffing and pointed out how she had tried various types of sausage to get the recipe just right. Her trick is using a blend that provides some spiciness and sweetness.

“So for the sausage, I tried a few different things,” she explained. “I first started with chicken sausage and basil. Sounds good, right? It was so boring — it was just terrible. And then I started with spicy sausage, like Italian sausage. It was too spicy.”

Garten landed somewhere in the middle and shared her easy tip for the perfect Thanksgiving side dish. “So I finally figured out that a combination of spicy and sweet Italian sausage was the perfect blend,” she explained. “It’s really up to you whether you want more spicy or more sweet.”

She cooked the sausage in a pan set over medium heat, breaking up the meat with a fork while it cooked, for about 10 minutes. “But it’s really good,” Garten noted. “The sausage and the bread crumbs and the apples and onions — it’s just a great combination.”

Garten added the cooked sausage to the bowl with the bread cubes and sauteed fruit and vegetables, then poured in chicken stock. She added cranberries and mixed everything together, poured it into a 9 by 12-inch baking dish, and baked the stuffing for 30 minutes.

‘The Barefoot Contessa’ star doesn’t cook stuffing inside the turkey

Garten doesn’t put stuffing in the turkey and has found she gets the best results. “In the past, when I used to make a whole turkey, I would put the stuffing inside and I had to cook the turkey forever in order for the stuffing to cook,” she explained. “And so, of course, the turkey was dry. Not a good idea.

“So I found if I made the stuffing separately, I had really moist turkey and a big pan of stuffing that was moist and delicious and crispy and crusty on the outside. Now that’s good stuffing.”

The full recipe is available on the Food Network website.

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