Happy Monday, everyone! How was your weekend? It was a momentous Saturday around these parts – our baby Lincoln turned one!
I’ll have a recap of the party on the Family Channel later this month but it was truly the perfect day and the party was exactly what I’d hoped it would be. A gathering of family to celebrate the light of our lives. I cannot BELIEVE that one year ago Ben and I were in the hospital snuggling our sweet little boy for the very first time. Completely mind boggling.
The party wasn’t without it’s hiccups. Check out the cake I attempted to make. BAHAHA – epic fail! Luckily Lincoln didn’t seem to mind and demolished it in the funniest cake smash I’ve ever seen. We witnessed the sugar high happen in real time! (Cake and icing details to come in the follow up post.)
The fact that this day has come and gone is bittersweet for sure. So many thoughts about this past year but, again, I’ll save them for the Family Channel so stay tuned!
In other news, I’ve officially crossed over to the dark side. I’ve been cooking with, gulp, bell peppers! An ingredient I find so loathsome that I wrote about my distaste for them in my About page here on IGE.
Their flavor is just too overwhelming. It takes over every dish it’s added to, right? And don’t even get me started on chopped red bell peppers pretending to be tomatoes. Nothing makes me more furious than taking a big bite of pasta salad, for instance, only to have my tongue immediately tell me that the juicy tomatoes I was eagerly anticipating are actually crunchy red bell peppers. Not cool!
That said, I will tolerate an occasional bell pepper under two conditions:
- When they’re charred nearly beyond recognition by the flames of a grill via shish kabob.
- When they’re simmered to melty, mild perfection in my Aunt Mary’s homemade marinara sauce then ladled over zesty Italian sausages nestled into crusty rolls and topped with melted provolone cheese, or in One-Pan Italian Sausage and Peppers Pasta which totally mimics the taste. It does not get any better!
Visiting my Aunt Mary and Uncle Bob’s house in Ohio each summer was something I looked forward to all year long, not only because I got to see them and my wonderful cousins Kelly and Lindsay, but also because we knew an Italian feast would be waiting for us when we arrived hot, cramped, and hangry. Homemade cookies, cakes, salads, and the best of all, Aunt Mary’s homemade Italian Sausage, Peppers, and Onion Sandwiches. Those babies are legendary.
My parents got the chance to visit Mary and the family earlier this summer and, since Ben, Lincoln, and I couldn’t go with, she sent back a huge tupperware of sausages simmered in her homemade marinara sauce packed with peppers and onions for us to enjoy at home. Ben and I were nearly jumping up and down with excitement when we got the container in our hot little hands.
I might have been a tad more excited because, uh, I ate them all. I ATE THE WHOLE CONTAINER! Ben had 1 sausage and I ate the rest over the course of like, three days. That’s how good they are. I mean I felt bad for Ben but, c’mon man, you snooze you lose. So hard!
At any rate, the family was giving me a hard time about it last week so I decided to come up with a dish for Ben that would give him a taste of what he missed out on. One-Pan Italian Sausage and Peppers Pasta got 2 thumbs up from my man!
Italian sausages are browned then simmered with pasta, spices, really good marinara sauce, and chicken broth then topped with whisper-thin slices of provolone cheese that melts gorgeously on top. Since I can’t eat bread, and Ben loves pasta (even gluten-free pasta,) this was a total win for both of us. Plus it all cooked in one pan and in under 30 minutes. Like I said, total win!
Start by cutting 4 raw Italian sausage links in half. You can usually find these by the brats at the meat counter. They are so dang good! Cutting each link in half allows the sausages to cook quickly in the pan, but furthermore that’s how Aunt Mary does it. So…yeah.
Heat 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large, nonstick pan over medium-high heat then brown the sausages on both sides. They don’t have to be cooked all the way through – just crisped to a nice golden brown color.
Remove the sausages to a plate then set aside.
Turn the heat down to medium then add 1 sliced green bell pepper and 1 large chopped shallot (could use 1/2 small onion,) season with salt and pepper, and then saute until the bell peppers are crisp tender. Next add 2 cloves minced garlic and saute for 30 more seconds.
FYI your shallots don’t need to get this dark. I got distracted by the adorableness that was Lincoln smearing fresh blackberries all over his face and thus over-browned them.
To the pan add 2 cups chicken broth and 1-1/4 cups REALLY GOOD marinara sauce. This is no time for Ragu or Prego, people! We’re going for an authentic Italian sausage and peppers flavor so you’ve got to get the good stuff. Central Iowa locals, grab a jar of Gino’s.
Next add 1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning and 1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes. The chili pepper flakes are optional – don’t like spice? Leave it out!
Now add 1/2 lb penne pasta (I used Barilla gluten-free penne) then shake the pan to make sure all the pasta’s covered in liquid. Nestle the sausage on top then place a lid on the pan and cook for 2 minutes less than the pasta package instructs for al dente pasta. It should definitely still have a bite.
Aaaand, voila! I always squeal at this point. But wait…there’s more.
Arrange 4 thin slices provolone cheese on top of the pasta and sausages then place the lid back on top until the cheese is melted. I asked the deli folks at my grocery store to slice the provolone really thin so it would melt quickly.
Glorious, glorious melted cheese!
Take the pan off the heat then let it sit with the lid off to thicken slightly before scooping into plates and digging in!
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One-Pan Italian Sausage and Peppers Pasta
One-Pan Italian Sausage and Peppers Pasta is a tasty 30 minute meal with all the flavors of an authentic sausage, peppers, and onion sandwich.
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 raw Italian sausage links, cut in half
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced
- 1 large shallot or 1/2 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- salt and pepper
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1-1/4 cups really good marinara sauce (locals use Gino’s)
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes (optional)
- 1/2lb penne pasta (gluten-free if you need it)
- 4 thin slices provolone cheese
- Heat oil in a large, nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add sausages then brown on both sides – they do not need to be cooked all the way through. Remove to a plate then set aside.
- Turn heat down to medium then add peppers and shallots to pan. Season with salt and pepper then saute for 5 minutes or until peppers are crisp-tender. Add garlic then saute for 30 more seconds.
- Add chicken broth, marinara sauce, Italian seasoning, and red chili pepper flakes to pan then turn heat up to bring mixture to a boil. Add pasta then shake pan to cover all the pasta with liquid and then nestle sausages on top. Place a lid on top then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until pasta is just under al dente, shaking the pan every so often to make sure the pasta is cooking evenly. Don’t let the pasta reach al dente as it still has a few more minutes to cook.
- Arrange cheese slices on top of pasta and sausages then place lid back on top. Let cheese melt then remove pan from heat and let sit with the lid off to thicken slightly for a few minutes before serving.
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.
The key to this dish is using good quality marinara sauce – spending a couple extra bucks really makes a difference. The sauce lightly coats the pasta and those super soft peppers and shallots really drive the homemade flavor home. The sausage and cheese though? Absolutely the stars of the dish. Enjoy this easy, tasty recipe!