On a recent trip to the farmers market, I found a basket full of banana peppers priced at 6 for $1.00. I didn’t believe the sign and asked the elderly male farmer how much they actually were. He looked to his wife, who said, “Six for $1.00.” He rolled his eyes and looked sort of defeated.
“Really? I’ll take six please…” I found myself saying, having no idea what I would do with them and feeling a little guilty about only paying $1.00 for two handfuls of peppers.
After a bit of googling, I stumbled upone this recipe for stuffed banana peppers that sounded utterly delicious, if a bit heavy.
Because two entire pounds of sausage sounded a bit egregious for filling just six, super skinny banana peppers, I did change the recipe somewhat. I scaled the recipe back by about half – using 1 pound of Des Moines’s own Graziano’s Italian sausage. While I do realize that I am officially a Louisvillian – complete with a drivers license and Kentucky plates – and that I should work to find locally-made Italian sausage here, Graziano’s is the best. Whenever I return to Iowa, I try to bring back several pounds for freezing. Peppers in hand, I was eager to make this dish using a frozen pound of my Iowa sausage.
I really wasn’t sure how this dish would turn out – but it was delicious. The perfectly pre-seasoned sausage was complimented well by with the bread crumb and sauce mixture. The tomato sauce was easy and worthy of topping pasta. And the fresh peppers? Well, you really couldn’t taste them over the strong flavors of the sauce and sausage, but they provided a nice vessel for it all. I would definitely make this again.
For my vegetarian friends, you could probably use soy sausage for a vegetarian dish -but who would want to do that?
Here is what I did, adapted from Bob’s Stuffed Banana Peppers
6 long, thin banana peppers – or any size really.
Here are mine:
2 T. butter
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped celery
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. dried basil
1 t. dried oregano
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
1 egg white
1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for the top of the casserole
1 lb. hot Italian sausage – or mild if you prefer, or a mix
3/4 c. bread crumbs
Cut off tops of peppers, and remove ribs and seeds. Chop edible portions of tops; set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add peppers, reduce heat, and simmer until tender but still firm, about 5 minutes.
Drain and set aside.
Heat butter in a medium skillet. Saute reserved chopped pepper, onion and celery until tender, 3 to 5 minutes.
Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce and garlic. Season with basil, oregano, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine egg, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, Worcestershire sauce and Parmesan. Mix in sausage bread crumbs and 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce mixture.
Cut the peppers in half lengthwise on one side – open them so they lay flat.
Place in a large casserole dish, and pour remaining tomato sauce mixture over peppers. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.
Note: I used the entire original recipe for the tomato sauce, but halved the filling. It all worked out well using the amounts I list above.
Bake uncovered in preheated oven for 1 hour.