I grew up in Clarksburg, WV home of one of the largest Italian Festival in the US, held every year on Labor Day Weekend. So each year about this time my mind wanders to some of the best Italian food I have ever tasted. So here is one of my recreations.
Banana Peppers Stuffed with Italian Sausage
12- 14 large banana peppers, as straight as possible (Hot or Sweet) I like hot
2 lbs bulk or approx 6 large Italian Sausage Links (Hot or Sweet) again I like hot
2 tsp of olive oil, divided
1 -2 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
1-2 teaspoons of fennel seeds
1 (15 ounce) can of tomato sauce
· Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
· Wash and drain banana peppers
· Wearing rubber gloves or food service gloves cut the tops off the banana peppers, insert a long thin blade knife, into the pepper, running it around the inside edge (the more seeds and vein you remove the more heat you remove), reach in and carefully remove the seeds & veins.
· Rinse the inside of the peppers to remove excess seeds. Stand them pointed tip up in a colander or bowl to let the drain.
· In a 9 x 13 – inch baking pan spread 1 teaspoon of olive oil to cover the bottom.
· Remove casing from sausage if using links. Pinch off small pieces and use them to stuff the tips of the peppers, continuing with larger pieces until the pepper is completely stuffed. Place it the prepared pan and continue until all peppers are done.
· Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.
· While the peppers are baking, in a medium sauce pan over medium heat add 1 teaspoon olive oil, garlic, fennel, and any remaining sausage. Stirring frequently break up sausage, and using the back of a spoon crush fennel seed, until sausage is no longer pink, about 5 minutes being careful not to brown the garlic.
· Add the tomato sauce, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until it is time to take the sausages out of the oven.
· After 40 minutes remove stuffed peppers from oven, and very carefully drain as much excess fat and water from the pan as possible.
· Cover the peppers with the sauce mixture. Lightly sprinkle with salt if desired. Return to oven and continue to bake an additional 10-20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
Makes 12-14 servings
· These are great as appetizers, served on a bed of pasta with your favorite sauce, or place in a good quality hoagie roll, topped with Italian cheese and baked to bubbly perfection.
· This is a large recipe because I like to freeze the extras and warm them as needed.