Karen Rankin's Italian Sausage Dressing with Marsala-Mushroom Gravy

This sausage dressing is perfect day of and the next day.

Karen’s Italian Sausage Dressing with Marsala-Mushroom Gravy
Photo: Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Margaret Monroe Dickey; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis
Active Time:
45 mins
Bake Time:
50 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 55 mins

"This dressing smells like Thanksgiving heaven—there's nothing better than butter, sausage, onion, celery, and thyme. If I don't make this recipe, my children are unhappy and feel like we have not done our part to be thankful. And it's even better the next day," notes Test Kitchen Professional Karen Schroeder-Rankin. "My absolute favorite way to enjoy it is on a turkey sandwich with mayo and cranberry sauce on toasted wheat bread, eaten while sitting at the table late at night with my daddy."

This Thanksgiving, Southern Living's editors and contributors are sharing the recipes that grace our tables year after year—like Karen's Italian Sausage Dressing with Marsala-Mushroom Gravy. The dressing is packed with plenty of vegetables and bits of sausage, surrounded by tender, moist bread cubes; the top and sides of this dressing crisp in the oven to form a wonderful crust. The perfect accompaniment to this classic dressing? Marsala-Mushroom Gravy. In just 15 minutes of cook time, the gravy develops a glossy, smooth texture; the mushrooms add a nice, earthy flavor.

You can assemble the dressing the day before and chill it overnight. Let the pan rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.


  • 2 (12 oz.) French bread loaves, cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 2 pounds bulk mild Italian sausage

  • ½ cup plus 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided 

  • 2 cups chopped sweet onion

  • 2 cups chopped celery

  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves and tender stems, divided

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided

  • 2 eggs

  • ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken stock, divided

  • 1 pound sliced cremini mushrooms (from 2 [8-oz.] pkg.)

  • ¼ cup chopped shallots (from 1 shallot)

  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour

  • ¼ cup dry Marsala 

  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly spray a 13- x 9-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

  2. Place bread cubes on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven 25 minutes, stirring halfway through to toast bread cubes evenly. They should be crispy on the outside and semi-tender on the inside.

  3. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high. Add sausage. Cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon or spatula to break into small pieces, until it begins to brown and is cooked through, 7 to 9 minutes. Remove from skillet with a slotted spoon; place in a large bowl, reserving drippings in skillet.

  4. Add ½ cup of the butter to drippings in skillet; cook over medium-high until butter melts. Add sweet onion, celery, 2 tablespoons of the thyme, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and ½ teaspoon of the pepper. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add vegetable mixture to bowl with sausage. Add toasted bread cubes to sausage mixture; stir to blend ingredients.

  5. Whisk eggs in a medium bowl until smooth. Add parsley and 5 cups of the stock to eggs; whisk to combine. Pour egg mixture over sausage-and-bread mixture in bowl. Stir with hands or a wooden spoon, gently turning mixture over until ingredients are well combined. Let stand until liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times. Spoon dressing mixture into prepared baking pan, pressing lightly to pack into pan. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter, and drizzle over top of dressing mixture. Bake in preheated oven until top is golden brown and dressing is moist but not wet in the center, 50 to 55 minutes. Let dressing stand 5 to 6 minutes before serving.

  6. To make gravy, heat remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium-high. Add mushrooms, shallot, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper to saucepan. Cook, stirring often, until mushrooms are golden brown and most of the liquid has evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes. Add flour, stirring to incorporate completely. Add Marsala, stirring until alcohol evaporates and a thick paste forms on mushrooms. Add remaining 3 cups stock, stirring until mixture comes to a boil and liquid thickens, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in heavy whipping cream and remaining 1 tablespoon thyme. Remove from heat. Serve gravy with dressing.

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