Braised Italian Sausage with Grapes & Balsamic-Glazed Onions

/Users/catherinehaug/Pictures/iPhoto Library_cmhaug/Masters/2014/02/17/20140217-104353/800px-Grapes_Angoor.JPG

Red Grapes

by Cat, February 17, 2013 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve been looking for casseroles I can make to have leftovers, but most include some kind of high-carb food: bread, noodles, pasta, etc., and such are not good for my ketogenic diet. One alternative is quick, easy to make skillet meals – almost as quick as reheating leftovers – and this recipe adapted from Fine (1) just hits the spot.

Italian sausage comes in two types, flavor-wise: sweet sausage and hot sausage. This recipe uses sweet Italian sausage, which is excellent with the grapes and balsamic glaze. It also comes in to preparation types: large links in a casing, or in bulk. For this recipe, use the sausages in a casing.

See also: 1. Lamb, Pork & Small Game Menu2. Mediterranean Menu; 3. Sausage (About)

Braised Italian Sausage with Grapes

The  original recipe serves 4, so for me, that’s a lot of leftovers. So I’ve adapted this to serve 2.

Use links sausage (1 – 1 ½” thick), not bulk sausage for this dish. Braising them is one of the best ways to cook meats, because they are first browned/seared in fat, then simmered with added moisture (water, broth, vinegar, etc.) until done, which avoids creating the problematic glycation end products of high-heat cooking. However, olive oil cannot hold up to higher heat, so be sure to use medium-low and don’t let it smoke.

The trick with cooking sausage this way is to pierce them with a fork in several places before braising. The sausages will release their juices to flavor the broth. Alternately, you can use lard for browning the sausage, and then add olive oil to cook the onions.

Serve with a nice green salad, and if you’re not on a ketogenic diet, serve also with a crusty bread and olive oil dip or lots of butter.

Ingredients & Equipment

  • 4 links sweet Italian sausage (about 14 – 18 oz)
  • ½ – 1 large yellow onion
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • Unrefined sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup rich chicken broth
  • 10 – 20 red seedless grapes, halved
  • 1 – 1½ Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
  • Equipment:
  • large cast iron skillet or heavy-bottomed saucier, with lid
  • large plate


  1. Prep: Prick sausages in several places with a fork.
  2. Slice onion thinly into rounds (about 1 cup). Wash and halve the grapes. Chop oregano.
  3. Cook: Heat 1 Tbsp oil in skillet over medium heat, add sausages and cook, turning every couple minutes, until browned all over, about 8 minutes. Transfer to plate.
  4. Add remaining 1 Tbsp oil and onion to the skillet, sprinkle with ½ tsp salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and starts to caramelize, about 7 minutes.
  5. Add vinegar and broth, scraping the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to incorporate any browned bits.
  6. Reduce to gentle simmer; add sausages and grapes, cover with lid ajar, and cook, stirring occasionally, until sausages are cooked through  (slice into one to check), about 25 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle with the fresh oregano, and continue to simmer another 15-20 minutes for the flavors to meld, before serving. NOTE: if using dried oregano, you’ll need about 1 tsp, and add it to the simmering mixture for the last 5 minutes of cooking.


3/13/14: I bought a package of Bugoni’s brand Sweet Italian Sausage from Lolo MT (local), just so I could try this recipe. Although the weight, at 18 oz, would make ⅔ recipe, because there are only 4 links, I’ll make it as a half recipe for 2-servings. Used 4 links, ½ sweet onion, 1 Tbsp balsamic, ¼ cup broth, 16 grapes and 1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano. Also used 1 Tbsp lard to brown the links, then added 1 Tbsp olive oil to caramelize the onion. Deglazed with balsamic and broth; cooked sausages with grapes for 35 minutes – these are bigger sausages than used in the original recipe, so took more time to be done. Forgot to add the oregano… Result: wonderful sauce with the onions and grapes, but sausage flavor was too strong. Might have been better had I remembered to add the oregano, but if I make this again, I’ll used a different kind of sausage with milder flavor. Perhaps Kafta (ground lamb with spices & herbs).

Result after reheating second portion leftover, 3/18/14:  I sautéed more onion, then added that along with more halved grapes and the chopped fresh oregano to the portion and let it simmer for another 20 minutes. This time it was delicious! The strong flavor in the sausage had mellowed a bit, and the hint of oregano was pleasant. I’ve updated recipe above to increase the amount of onion and grapes, and to add more simmering time.


  1. Fine recipe:
  2. Wikimedia Commons photo:

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