Some nights I just want a quick, easy dinner that will be on the table in no time. With cooler weather right around the corner, these sandwiches are my idea of the perfect comfort food. Rich and tasty with lots of veggies and flavorful sausages, they soothe my soul and certainly touch the Italian heart of The Artist.
When I was a young IBMer, I went to Atlanta often for training. One hot summer evening when the rest of us were studying for our next exam, one of my classmates went into the kitchen of our apartment to make dinner. Within minutes the most amazing smells caught my attention. Quickly abandoning my studies, I went to investigate.
She was happily humming to herself and stirring something in a skillet. As I got closer she looked up with a huge smile on her face. When I asked what she was making she told me, “This is one of my family’s favorites, always a winner and something I thought everyone would like.”
She had chopped up red bell peppers and onions and was sauteing them with slices of Italian sausages. Incredibly simple but oh my goodness was my mouth watering. She had grown up on the East Coast where this was a common meal, but I had never had it before. She laughed at my wide-eyed innocence as we sat down to eat. It has been many years, but I can still smell the aromas coming from the skillet as everything cooked together and the taste as I bit into my very first sausage and pepper hoagie sandwich.
Over the years I have made this many, many times, with varying ingredients and utilizing various cooking methods. During the winter I cook these on the stovetop, but in fair weather my favorite by far is grilling both the sausage and the vegetables. It adds a fabulous smokiness that cannot be achieved in the house.
If you want to make this a real Italian treat, you can melt provolone or other cheese over the top. Place the hot sausage and peppers onto the roll, top with cheese and cover with a lid to trap the heat. It will melt the cheese and gently steam the roll. If you want more heat, you can add chopped jalapeno peppers, canned mild green chiles or a splash of hot sauce while you are grilling or sauteing the rest of the vegetables.
If you are having friends over for game night, to root for your favorite teams, if your kids are having a sleep-over or if you are hungry after a long hike in the woods, you will love diving into these sandwiches. They will fill up even the hungriest teenagers! Just make sure you pass lots of napkins to catch all the drips because these are incredibly juicy and messy – just the way I like them!
- 1-1/2 lb raw Italian sausages, any blend of mild and/or hot links you prefer (you can also use turkey or chicken Italian sausages - cut down on the cooking time because they cook more quickly)
- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 2 large onions, finely chopped
- 2 red bell peppers, stemmed and seeded, thinly sliced
- 4 pepperoncini, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped, optional
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- Pinch dry chili flakes, optional
- 1/4 cup white wine or dry vermouth, optional (you can use water instead)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 to 6 hoagie rolls, split
- 8 to 10 slices provolone cheese, optional
- In a large, deep skillet heat sausages and 1 tbsp oil over medium-high heat until they begin to give off some of their juices, about 3 minutes. Add enough water to come about halfway up the sides of the sausages, reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove the lid and raise the heat back to medium-high. Evaporate remaining water and brown the sausages on all sides. Transfer to a plate and let cool slightly.
- Alternately, you can grill the sausages over a medium-high fire, either charcoal or gas, turning often, until browned on all sides. Don’t worry if they aren’t cooked all the way through, you will finish them on the stove. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
- While sausages are cooling, add 1 tbsp oil to pan and add the onions, bell peppers and pepperoncini (if using). Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until onions are slightly softened and translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and oregano and cook, stirring constantly for about 30 seconds or until the garlic is fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste, chili flakes and wine. Cook for about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
- When cool enough to handle, slice the sausages in half lengthwise and then crosswise into small pieces. Add them to the pan with the onions and peppers along with any accumulated juices on the plate and/or cutting board. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the sausages are cooked through and the sauce has thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.
- If you like your rolls toasted, preheat the broiler. Brush each one with a little olive oil and broil cut side up until lightly toasted, watching carefully. Remove from the oven and divide the sausage mixture between the rolls. If you want, top them with cheese slices and place back under the broiler for a minute or two until the cheese is melted and hot.
- Serve immediately.
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings