Sweet Italian Sausage

Serves 8-10

Note: For hot Italian sausage, add 1 teaspoon cayenne, 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes and 2 tablespoons hot Hungarian paprika.

3 pounds boneless Boston butt, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 pound pork fatback or fat trimmings, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Salt, freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons fennel pollen or ground fennel seeds

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, optional

Medium hog casings

1. Using a meat grinder fitted with a 3/8-inch plate -- or the pulse button on a food processor -- coarsely grind the pork and fatback. Add 4 teaspoons salt, 2 1/2 teaspoons pepper and remaining ingredients (except the casings). Use clean hands to knead and blend mixture. Cook a small patty in a skillet, and taste for seasoning.

2. Stuff the meat into casings and twist into 5-inch sausage links. Refrigerate up to 2 days or freeze up to 2 months.

-- Bruce Aidells, "The Great Meat Cookbook" (Houghton Mifflin, $40, 632 pages)