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ITALIAN WEEK: SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE CASSEROLE

The dead of winter is the perfect time for the comfort of hearty Italian food. This week, we'll feature recipes that will put the mamma back in your mia. This one was printed in Parade magazine in September 2002.

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons margarine

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 oz. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

1 cup diced ( 1/2-inch) eggplant

1 cup diced ( 1/2-inch) zucchini

1 cup diced ( 1/2-inch) red or green bell pepper

1/4 cup chopped onion

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 can (28 oz.) Italian plum tomatoes, drained and chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

Cayenne or black pepper, to taste

2 oz. grated mozzarella cheese

DIRECTIONS

Melt the margarine with the oil in a nonstick pan over medium-low heat. Add the sausage and cook 10 minutes, breaking up the meat with a spoon. Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon; reserve.

To the same pot, add the eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, onion and garlic. Stirring occasionally, cook until softened, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the reserved sausage, the tomatoes, parsley, basil and cayenne. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Spoon the mixture into an 8x9-inch, oven-to-table baking dish to fit and sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese. Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven until the cheese melts, about 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

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