Take a walk on the wild side and rev up your standard grilled cheeseburger with this riff on toppings. Instead of the same-old lettuce and tomato on a ground beef patty, start with sweet Italian sausage, then top with melted provolone, tomato pesto and garlicky spinach all nestled in a toasted ciabatta roll.
The grocery store was only offering rectangular ciabatta rolls, so after toasting them, they were cut in half which became the perfect size vehicles with enough heft to support the rest of the ingredients. Yes, anchovy paste is optional and it’s not for everyone, but believe me, the small amount of salty funkiness adds a welcome layer of umami complexity when dissolved into the garlicky spinach.
The Mr. just couldn’t help himself and had to have a second one! See below for a bonus Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto recipe. You only need 1/4 cup of the tomato pesto for the burgers, so you have plenty leftover for another use such as in a pasta dish or an appetizer.
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. anchovy paste (optional)
1 lb. sweet or hot Italian sausages (or a combination of both), casings removed
4 slices of provolone cheese
1/4 cup sun-dried-tomato pesto, store bought or homemade (see recipe below)
4 round ciabatta rolls, split and toasted
In a large skillet, bring 1/4 inch of water to a boil. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until just wilted, about 1 minute; drain and press out as much water as possible. Wipe out the skillet.
In the same skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and anchovy paste and cook over high heat, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the spinach, season with salt and stir just until coated, about 10 seconds.
Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Using slightly moistened hands, form the sausage meat into four 4-inch patties, about 3/4 inch thick. Brush the burgers with oil and grill over moderate heat until browned and crusty on the bottom, about 5 minutes.
Carefully flip the burgers and grill until the burgers are cooked through about 5 minutes longer, adding the cheese one minute before taking off the grill. Spread the pesto on the rolls. Top with the burgers and spinach and serve.
This herby Italian sauce is not only great on the sausage burgers, but works with shellfish and pasta too. Make a day or two ahead to save time and effort on dinner night. Leftovers make a great condiment on baguette toasts topped with shredded mozzarella and a chiffonade of fresh basil… YUM!
Baked Stuffed Eggplant with Italian Sausage is described by Food & Wine as over-the-top stuffed dreamboats. Well “dreamboats” may be a stretch, but they were very good indeed! Ripe tomatoes and roasted eggplant come together to yield a hearty filling, made even better with the addition of Italian sausage (sweet or hot, your choice). Combined with a bright and lemony breadcrumb topping and a quick-fix tomato sauce jazzed up with fresh herbs, this makes a stunning summer main dish.
OK, first glance at the list of ingredients and I hear a few of you sigh an audible groan. But please don’t despair, yes the process is a bit time-consuming, but so worth it! Just be sure you have enough time on hand. It’s rare that we ever follow a recipe exactly due to inability obtain the needed ingredients, or because the amounts of some of those ingredients just don’t seem adequate.
For example, the smallest eggplants I could get were 10 ounces each, while the recipe called for smaller ones. Then, the original amount of sausage was only a 1/4 pound—barely a tablespoon per serving, so we doubled the amount to a 1/2 pound. Finally, the marinara sauce at only 8 ounces again seemed inadequate, so a 14-ounce jar was our choice; in which case the fresh herbs were increased to counterbalance the adjustments.
When it came time to cooking the eggplant and onion, I increased those cooking times because as noted at only 2 or 3 minutes, the veggies weren’t as far along as they should have been. All of our changes are noted below.
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (about 2 cups), plus more for garnish
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano, divided
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint, divided
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
14 oz. jarred marinara sauce
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium. Add breadcrumbs, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon salt; set aside.
Cut eggplants in half lengthwise. Scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/4-inch shell. Chop pulp into 1/2-inch thick cubes. Sprinkle eggplant shells with 1 teaspoon salt, and invert onto a clean, dry towel. Let stand 30 minutes to drain.
Preheat broiler to high with oven rack 5 to 6 inches from heat. Pat eggplant shells dry, and brush with 1 tablespoon oil. Place eggplant shells, cut side up, on a baking sheet, and broil just until tender, about 5 minutes. (I did this in two lots, 3 at a time.)
Remove from oven, and reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Place in a single layer in a 10- x 14-inch baking dish.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add sausage, and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon to break up large pieces, until sausage is browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a large bowl. Reserve drippings in skillet.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in skillet over medium-high. Cook reserved eggplant cubes in hot oil, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 5 to 6 minutes.
Add onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic, pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer tomato mixture to the large bowl with sausage. Add feta, 1/2 cup breadcrumb mixture, egg, 2 tablespoons oregano, 2 tablespoons mint, 2 tablespoons parsley, and vinegar; toss until combined. Divide mixture evenly among eggplant shells. Top evenly with remaining breadcrumb mixture, and place stuffed eggplants in oven. Bake at 375°F until filling is golden and bubbly, 25 to 30 minutes. (Because our eggplant were larger, I cooked them for 40 minutes.)
Meanwhile, stir together marinara sauce, remaining 1 tablespoon of the oregano, mint, and parsley in a small saucepan. Heat over low just until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Drizzle over baked stuffed eggplant just before serving. Sprinkle with remaining sauce and additional feta, if desired.
Simple, easy, delicious, there is no more reliable guest at a cookout than sausage, roasted over the open fire. But before you grill the meat, get some peppers, onions and potato slices soft and dark and fragrant in the heat, and use these as a bed on which to serve the links.
Well, the best laid plans… right? Our grilling hopes were dashed by a torrential day-long tropical storm soaking. I can’t really complain because we were in dire need of some precip for the gardens and lawn. That’s why it’s important to formulate a Plan B, in this case, “grilling” indoors.
To bulk up the meal, we included sliced Yukon gold potatoes. They were a perfect compliment to the roasted onions and peppers, and were crispy on the outside while remaining creamy on the inside.
Grilled Italian Sausages, Onion, Peppers and Potatoes
2 sweet peppers (green, red or yellow) seeded and cut into eighths
1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut into large coins
4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, sliced about 3/8″ thick (we only used 2 potatoes)
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tsp. dried oregano
4 links (about 1 lb.) sweet/mild Italian sausages
For a gas grill, turn all burners to high, lower cover and heat for 15 minutes, then turn burners to medium.
Meanwhile, toss peppers, onions and potatoes with oil and dried oregano, and sprinkle with salt. Lightly prick sausages all over so that they do not burst.
Put peppers, onions and potato wedges in a grill basket on the grill, turning occasionally until they are softened and dark at the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Move them to the cooler side of the grill.
Place the sausages on the hot side of the grill, cover and cook, turning occasionally until they are cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.
Transfer the vegetables to a platter and top with the sausages. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.
ORPLAN B: if you have to cook indoors, rub a rimmed baking sheet lightly with oil, put the pan in the oven and preheat to 450°.
Once the oven comes to temperature, spread the oiled veggies in a single layer on the hot baking sheet and return to the oven. Cook for 15 minutes.
Remove pan from oven, flip each morsel over, rotate the pan 180° and continue cooking another 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Add a teaspoon or two of olive oil and place the links in the hot skillet. Cook for 10-12 minutes total, turning a few times to brown all over. You may have to put a lid on the pan for a few minutes to make sure the links reach 155°.
Place roasted veggies on a platter and top with sausage links.