I’ve been into the idea of sheet pan meals ever since I met the lovely and talented Molly (of Dunk and Crumble) at a training for QVC . Molly was there to promote her new cookbook called Sheet Pan Suppers, and I was immediately intrigued. The book is brilliant. Molly is brilliant. Sheet pan suppers are totally freaking brilliant.
(And hey! FYI, Molly came out with a sequel to her first book this past year and it is equally as great.)
Since then, I’ve been playing around with different sheet pan meals and this one seemed like a no brainer. Sausage and peppers has been a staple in my family for as long as I can remember. Nine out of ten family gatherings will always have a big dish of it on the table. It’s definitely an Italian thing, but arguably a New Jersey thing too (they tend to go hand in hand).
That said, this dish was never exactly a favorite of mine. I didn’t hate it, but it wasn’t something I ever looked forward to. For one, I never cared much for sausage, and the rest of it just seemed meh. It’s funny how your taste changes over time, and recently, I not only developed a taste for Italian sausage, I actually started to crave sausage and peppers. I didn’t have a family recipe to follow, but thought how hard could it be? So I winged it. And no offense to the family, but this version I came up with is way better (wink).
Why? It all comes down to roasting. The dish I grew up eating consisted of sweet bell peppers and onions cooked down to mush in a bunch of liquid (namely, wine) and oftentimes also contained potatoes that, #sorrynotsorry, were bland and boring. The sausage then basically braised / steamed in the liquid. It could usually be found bubbling away in a crock pot with a tray of hard rolls next to it. There was never any browning happening, and that’s where my version is different.
By roasting the peppers and onions at a high temperature, it allows them to get buttery soft and caramelized. This addition of flavor and texture is a game changer, not to mention the sausage. Since it cooks a lot faster than the veggies, it gets added only for the last few minutes of cooking. Then, the broiler steps in to give it a beautifully browned and crisp exterior.
We have an amazing butcher in town that makes homemade Italian sausage the old fashioned way, and it is by far my favorite. Use hot or sweet, whatever you like. The addition of both fennel seeds (which are typically found in sweet Italian sausage) and jalapeños is optional, but I think they add extra flavor and pizzaz. Yeah thats right, pizzaz.
This is a great low-carb, paleo friendly meal that’s perfect for weeknight dinners or for serving a crowd. It’s great on it’s own, but personally I love it even more tucked into a crusty Italian roll (or better yet, garlic bread). It’s easy, it’s tasty, and it’s always a crowd pleaser. Be sure to give this one a try.
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Four Years Ago: Grilled Vegetable Panzanella
- 2 medium-large bell peppers, any color, cored and thinly sliced
- 1-2 jalapeños, thinly sliced (optional)
- 1 large yellow or sweet onion, thinly sliced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 lbs Italian sausage, hot or sweet, cut into 4-inch pieces
- Italian flat leaf parsley, leaves only, for garnish (optional)
- rolls or Italian bread for serving (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Combine bell peppers, jalapeños (if using), onion, garlic, and fennel seeds (if using) on a large sheet pan. Season generously with salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil and mix to combine.
- Roast for 20 minutes, then use a spatula to mix the vegetables around. Roast for another 20 minutes, or until very soft and caramelized around the edges (it may take a little longer).
- Arrange the sausage over top, then roast for another 8-10 minutes, or until cooked through. Place the pan on the top rack of the oven and switch the broiler on to high. Keep a close eye on it and remove as soon as the sausage browns.
- Sprinkle with parsley and serve as-is or with rolls to make sandwiches.
- If doubling or tripling for a crowd, be sure to use separate sheet pans for each batch. Combining too many ingredients on one pan will cause them to steam rather than caramelize.