This is nothing more, really, than an Italian-inspired stuffing. This one is light, spicy and spoonable.
I go for hot Italian sausages here, since it’s the contrast between the sweet, fruited bread and the fieriness of the sausage that I love; but it would work with the milder variety, too. You can’t, however, substitute normal breakfast sausages: the rusk in them would add too much breadiness; that element is elegantly provided already.
If you don’t like the dried fruit in panettone, then go for a tall, round loaf of pandoro or challah instead. In either case, be sure to brush off all the bits of visible sugar from the top. I just slice off the sugar-covered bits.
For broth, I simply use good store-bought carton or can. If you're starting off with hot broth, make it up first and leave it to cool a little before mixing in with the eggs.
- 2 onions, peeled
- 3 stalks celery
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 lbs Italian sausages
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 lb panettone, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Salt to taste
- Large handful of chopped parsley, plus more to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lay out the panettone cubes on a large baking sheet, and toast them in the oven for 10 minutes, until they are crisp and golden at the edges. Allow to cool. Obviously, this step can be done well in advance, just be sure to keep the toasted cubes in an airtight container.
2. Chop the onions and celery finely, but don’t go so far that you end up with a mush.
3. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil into a pan and, when warm, add the celery and onion and cook gently, stirring every now and again, for 10-15 minutes until softened.
4. Add the remaining oil to the pan, then squeeze the sausages out of their casings into the pan and squish and turn with a wooden spoon to break the pieces up as much as possible and mix with the celery and onion. Cook the sausage meat for about 10 minutes, or until the pinkness has left it, stirring regularly with your wooden spoon. You can do everything up till this stage in advance if you like.
5. Preheat the oven to 400°F (if it isn’t on already) and grease and ovenproof pan (approx. 3 x 8 inches), pretty enough to serve from, put in the toasted panettone cubes and add the sausage celery and onion: I use my hands to blend everything together well.
6. In the bowl that had the sausages, celery and onion (to save on washing up) whisk the eggs with the broth (adding salt if it isn’t already salty, so taste the broth first) and pour this over the stuffing, leaving it to soak in for 5 minutes or so before baking, uncovered, in the oven for 45 minutes. It will be dark golden and crisp on top, eggily soft – but utterly firm – underneath.
7. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and use a large spoon to serve.
Nutritional information is based on 16 servings and includes 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving.