And no, I’m not talking about that movie with Kristen Bell. 😉
When I was casting about for a new and different take on Italian recipes in honor of Zen on Masterpiece Mystery, I came across several yummy ideas in my Better Homes & Garden “Simply Perfect Italian” magazine issue that intrigued me, and so I made mental notes to try them later. One such recipe I’m trying today: Tomato-Pepper Sauce with Sausage.
As Wikipedia tells us:
Bell pepper, also known as sweet pepper or capsicum, is a cultivar group of the species Capsicum annuum (chili pepper). Cultivars of the plant produce fruits in different colors, including red, yellow, and orange. The fruit is also frequently consumed in its unripe form, when the fruit is still green. Bell peppers are sometimes grouped with less pungent pepper varieties as “sweet peppers.”
Any variety of bell pepper — green, red, or yellow — is mild (no heat to it at all), and the varieties can pretty much be used interchangeably in recipes. I usually get green bell peppers because they’re more affordable than their brighter-colored counterparts, but this recipe calls for two peppers of different colors — one could use one each of red, yellow, or orange peppers. The original recipe that has inspired this dish calls for one red and one yellow pepper, but as the introduction to this section of the magazine reasonably states, “So go ahead — vary these according to what’s looking good at the market and what you’re craving tonight.” Words to live by!
The recipe that served for inspiration also calls for sweet Italian sausage, but I’m not a fan of the sweet — I don’t care for the licorice-kind of taste that sweet sausage has. The hot sausage, flavored with red pepper flakes, is my absolute favorite.
In its traditional pork sausage form, Italian sausage is a tasty but high-fat, high-calorie meat, so it had always been a very rare — as in, once every several years — treat for me. So you can imagine my delight when I saw Turkey Italian Sausage at the grocery store! The brand available in my local stores is Honeysuckle White, and it has all the things I love about a good spicy Italian sausage — flavor and just the right amount of spicy heat from the red pepper flakes and other seasonings — but without all the calories and fat. I’ve only been able to find the hot sausage at intermittent times at some of our local Brookshire’s stores (our local WalMart sells only the sweet variety), so when I see it available, I snag up as many packages of it as I can, securely wrap (cling wrap, then into a freezer storage bag) what we don’t eat before the “use or sell by” date, and plop it in the freezer.
Vegetarians, there’s no need for you to feel left out — a simple Google quickly brought Tofurky to my attention, which has a vegetarian version of Italian sausage available. 🙂 I’m sure there are other substitutions available to you, as well.
As the magazine that served as inspiration for this recipe (I’ve used it as a springboard to develop a recipe that better suits our taste) says, “…[this dish] is so hearty that a thin pasta just won’t do. Ribbed rigatoni, quilled-shaped penne, and tubular ziti are sturdy enough to stand up well to this robust sauce.”
(A Note About the Pasta: While I do try to keep my carbs in balance, that doesn’t mean I can’t ever have pasta. When eating a pasta dish, I pay extra attention to portions, making sure that I don’t overdo. I also go easy on the bread and focus more on the sauce and the salad. Using whole wheat or higher-fiber pasta is another way to keep carbs in check while adding in more fiber.)
This dish requires few ingredients and comes together rather quickly, with no lengthy simmer time required. It’s made on the stove-top, making it ideal year ’round — because yes, alas, we’re still battling heat here (I know y’all are about as tired of hearing that as I am of saying it, but it’s just h-o-t, peoples.) The recipe that inspired this suggests cooking it all in a Dutch oven — no doubt to prevent spattering your stove-top. One could cook it in a large skillet as well, though, and use a spatter lid.
I’m rounding this out with a cool, crisp green salad and garlic bread that I’ll make up out of onion poppy ciabatta buns in the toaster oven.
I think it’s going to be so yummy, that we’ll be able to dream that we’re in Roma 😉
Tomato-Pepper Sauce with Sausage (Makes 5 to 8 servings, depending upon appetites and how much of the sauce you make)
- 1 package (5 sausages, or 1.25 pounds) Turkey Italian Sausage (I prefer the hot; you may prefer the sweet, if you’re a licorice fan) (Vegetarians: Seek out a Tofurky or other vegetarian substitution)
- Olive or canola oil
- Red wine (healthy dose, about 1/2 cup or so; eyeball it)
- 1/2 to 1 medium to large onion, finely chopped/diced (you want about 1 cup diced onion)
- Minced garlic to taste
- 1 red (or yellow or orange) bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1″ squares
- 1 yellow (or orange) bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1″ squares
- 2 cans (14 -15 ounces each) diced tomatoes (I’m using tinned tomatoes seasoned with basil, oregano, and garlic)
- 1 can (6 ounces) paste (I’m using the kind seasoned with basil, oregano, and garlic)
- Splash of Worcestershire sauce
- Sprinkle of red pepper flakes (optional)
- Splash of Balsamic vinegar
- I prepare the turkey sausage as suggested by Rachael Ray: Place it in a non-stick skillet or Dutch oven, add in some water (reaches about halfway up the sausages), and drizzle with just a wee bit of olive (or canola) oil. Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat and cook sausages, turning occasionally, until most of the water is evaporated. This cooks the sausages and as the water goes down, the oil helps brown them.
- Remove sausages from skillet and wipe out if need be. Slice sausages on the diagonal into bite-sized pieces.
- Add in another drizzle of olive oil in the pan, if needed. Put in diced onion (I like to whiz mine up in my little food processor), sliced pepper, and minced garlic and sauté for just a bit until it’s crisp/tender, about 5 minutes. Add in a healthy splashes of wine (about 1/2 cup or so), bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer until wine has nearly evaporated (about 5 minutes).
- Pour in tinned tomatoes (UNDRAINED — you may whiz/crush them up in a food processor or blender, if desired), sliced Italian sausage and any accumulated juices, and tomato paste. Stir together. Add in a splash of Worcestershire sauce, sprinkling of red pepper flakes (if desired), and a splash of Balsamic vinegar (or a teaspoon of sugar, if you prefer).
- Let sauce simmer, uncovered or covered, until sauce as achieved desired consistency (add in a bit more liquid, if desired). You shouldn’t need to simmer it for long, though — about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Serve over desired pasta — penne, rigatoni, or ziti are suggested.