Whelp, Mr. Lincoln has officially started Pre-K! I’m feeling so many emotions that I don’t even know where or how to start processing them. Truly I feel like someone is squeezing my heart and lungs. (Maybe I should get that looked at? #kidding)
I’m excited because Lincoln’s excited. Relieved because, well, it’s time. Nervous because he could technically be in Kindergarten next year (although we’ll probably hold him back a year – August birthday) which sends me into an emotional tailspin. Happy. Sad. Stomach in knots. Like I said, all the feels.
I’m sure all the grade school parents want to pat me on the head and tell me it’s going to be ok, but UGH! Tough stuff.
Anyway, yes, four day a week Pre-K is now in session! Cam and I won’t know what to do with ourselves! Truthfully I’m looking forward to maybe getting into a gym routine, fitting in a few extra hours of work per week, and finding time to get dinner prepped earlier in the day. The recipe I’m sharing today – Italian Sausage and Pepper Ring Mini Meatloaves – is one that’s ideal for assembling ahead of time then popping into the oven shortly before calling the crew to dinner.
You know I LOVE me some mini meatloaves. Past renditions include Mini BBQ Cheddar Meatloaves, Mini Muffuletta Meatloaves, Mini Philly Cheesesteak Meatloaves, Mini Mediterranean Turkey Meatloaves, and Mini Salsa Turkey Meatloaves. They’re easy to assemble, quick to bake, and perfectly portion controlled – and Italian Sausage and Pepper Ring Mini Meatloaves are no different. Plus they taste like slow cooked sausage and peppers, but bake in just 30 minutes. Upgrade!
Ground beef and Italian sausage are mixed with herbs and spices, garlic, and onions then pressed into hollowed out bell peppers that have been sliced into rings to create mini meatloaf shells (hence the name “pepper ring” mini meatloaves!) then baked under a blanket of cheese. These might be my favorite mini meatloaves to date – they are so good and fun! Plus you can assemble the dish up to a day ahead of time then transfer right from the fridge to a hot oven.
Best of all, my entire family inhales this recipe – 10 month old and all. Yes, peppers too! (Since Lincoln is allergic to dairy I bake his pepper ring mini meatloaf sans cheese in a separate dish.) Like I said, the mini meatloaves taste just like my more traditional Sausage and Peppers but the texture is almost meatball-like. The combination of sausage, peppers, marinara sauce, and cheese in any form though? Total home run.
Couple of notes:
- Use the leanest ground beef you can find as the meat will shrink inside the pepper rings. I use 93/7 or 90/10.
- Spring for a really good jar of marinara sauce, or use homemade if you can. This is what makes sausage and peppers taste like sausage and peppers. Locals I love Gino’s, otherwise Mezzetta and Bove’s both have great, no sugar added marinara sauces.
Ready to eat?!
Start by slicing the tops and bottoms off 2 medium-sized bell peppers then run a knife along the insides to remove the seeds. You can use whatever color of peppers you like – I usually use 1 red and 1 green.
Next, slice the hollowed out bell peppers into 1″ thick rings then place them in the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish with 1 cup marinara sauce spread in the bottom. You should be able to get 3-4 rings per pepper, though you’ll only need 6 rings total.
Next, make the meatloaf filling. To a large bowl add 1/2lb each lean ground beef and ground sweet Italian sausage, 2 slices gluten-free bread, crusts removed then minced, 1 egg, 1 minced shallot, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and a pinch red pepper flakes if you want a little zip. Use your hands to mix until just combined then score the mixture into thirds, and each third in half to create 6 portions.
NOTE: be sure to use lean ground beef (I wouldn’t go any fattier than 90/10) as the meat mixture will shrink during baking.
Roll each portion into a ball then press into a pepper ring and top with 1 heaping Tablespoon marinara sauce. Cover the dish with foil then bake for 30 minutes at 425 degrees. Finally, top each mini meatloaf with a heap of shredded Italian cheese blend then bake uncovered for 5-7 more minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly.
That’s all she wrote, my friend! Scoop the mini meatloaves onto plates then drizzle with the delectable sauce from the bottom of the pan – it ridiculously delicious. I hope you love this fun and yummy dish – enjoy!
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Italian Sausage and Pepper Ring Mini Meatloaves
Italian Sausage and Pepper Ring Mini Meatloaves have all the taste of sausage and peppers, in a fun mini meatloaf presentation. My entire family loves this easy, gluten-free dinner recipe!
- 2 medium-sized bell peppers (any color)
- 1/2lb lean ground beef (93/7 recommended)
- 1/2lb gluten-free ground sweet Italian sausage (I like Johnsonville)
- 2 slices gluten-free bread, crusts removed then minced (or 1 slice regular bread)
- 1 egg
- 1 small shallot or 1/2 onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- salt and pepper
- pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
- 4oz finely shredded Italian cheese blend
- 2 cups marinara sauce, divided
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread 1 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9x13" baking dish then set aside. Slice the tops and bottoms off bell peppers then run a knife along the insides to core. Slice hallow peppers into 1" rings - you should get 3 rings per pepper for 6 rings total - then place in the bottom of the baking dish and set aside.
- To a large bowl add ground beef, Italian sausage, bread, egg, shallot or onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes if using. Use your hands to mix until just combined then divide the mixture into thirds, and each third in half. Roll each portion into a ball then press into a pepper ring.
- Spread a heaping Tablespoon marinara sauce on top of each mini meatloaf then cover baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove baking dish from oven then top each mini meatloaf with shredded cheese. Bake uncovered for 5-7 more minutes, or until cheese is golden brown, then serve.
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.