Why is it that the best foods are usually the simplest, having the least amount of ingredients. A sharp hunk of cheedar cheese with a slice of apple… toast with butter… bacon and eggs. All bring such satisfaction to the palette and belly. This is one of those foods. It only has 3 main ingredients: sausage, mascarpone cheese, and bread. A little spray of Pam if you like on the bread and some chopped parsley for garnish are lovely too, but not necessary. This combination is so wonderful–I serve it all the time as an appetizer at parties or even just with a salad for a light supper. Everyone always loves it. I never have leftovers. And amazingly, with such a short list of ingredients, most people can’t quite identify them.
The origin of this dish is in Italy. My mom was taking a cooking class there, and during one of the days, the chef took her to a local market for sausage. Once back in the kitchen, the chef simply crumbled the meat, cooked it for a minute or two, then mixed it with the creamy mascarpone and spread it on toasts. Most of the sausage was still raw, as meats are more commonly served in Europe. The flavors were incredible. My mom immediately recreated the dish back at home, but did cook the sausage all the way through. Below you will see my interpretation of her recipe, which I *think* is pretty much the same as my mom’s.
Sausage Mascarpone Crostini
Serves 6-8 as a passed appetizer
1 pound of sweet Italian sausage (you can substitute turkey sausage, please see the note below accordingly)
1 fresh baguette
1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Optional: pinch of fennel seeds
Note: If you wish to substitute turkey sausage, please go ahead. I find that it lacks the sweetness of regular pork sausage, so I add a tablespoon of honey to the pan while the sausage is cooking on the stove.
1. Remove the casings from the sausage by making a shallow slice along each link lengthwise (this will make the casing easy to peel away.) Spray a frying pan with cooking spray and place it over medium heat on the stove. Add the sausage to the pan and break it apart into crumbles as it cooks. Add the fennel seeds; stir throughout. Once the sausage is cooked through, drain it, and place in a small bowl on the kitchen counter–allow to come to room temperature.
2. While the sausage is cooling, prepare the crostini. Slice the baguette into 1/4-inch diagonal slices. Lay the slices on a baking sheet and lightly spray with cooking spray. Place under your oven’s broiler until lightly browned. Do not brown the other side. Set on the counter to cool.
3. Once the sausage has cooled, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. With a spatula, mix the mascarpone cheese with the cooled sausage. Spread the sausage/mascarpone mixture onto the NON-browned sides of the crostini. Bake in the upper third of your oven until the cheese is melty and the tops are slightly browned, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from oven and place hot crostini on a platter. Top with the chopped parsley and serve.