A comfort food dish with a big pop of color
This dish is a variation on a classic Italian peasant recipe. Make a big pan of these because they get better the next day. They can be served as an entree with a side of pasta aglio olio (garlic gently sautéed in good olive oil with salt, cracked pepper, and Parmesan) or roasted potatoes. I’ve also served it over shell-shaped pasta cooked separately.
The peppers are sliced in strips and sautéed with the sliced sausage, onions, and garlic. Tomato paste is added and caramelized, the dish is seasoned, if necessary, with salt and crushed red pepper flakes and dried herbs, then braised in wine and water until the liquid is reduced to a glaze. I use three colors of bell peppers which gives you a gorgeous multicolor dish.
Stewed bell peppers with Italian hot sausage
Three large bell peppers, mixed colors
Two large or three small links hot Italian sausage
One medium sliced yellow onion
Five cloves garlic, crushed and rough chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Dry white wine or dry vermouth
Red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
Put the sausage links into the freezer for 10–15 minutes while you prep the vegetables.
Top and bottom the peppers, remove seeds and any white pulp and slice in 2–3” long strips. Peel, halve, and slice the onion into quarter inch slices. Peel, crush, and rough chop garlic. Set aside.
Remove sausages from the freezer and slice into ¼” thick rounds. Leave in the casing. Partial freezing makes this much easier and less messy.
Add a tablespoon of good olive oil to a large frying pan or Dutch oven. I used a large, very well seasoned cast iron frying pan. Add sausage and fry until they start to lose their raw look. Add peppers and onions. Fry until they start to soften and brown around the edges. Add garlic and fry until fragrant but not brown. Sprinkle on red pepper flakes to taste, about ½ tsp.
Push ingredients aside to open a space in the center of the pan and fry the tomato paste* until it darkens and starts to carmelize. Add bay leaves. Add the wine until it is about ½” deep. Scrape up any bits of fond in the pan and stir together. Cook until wine is reduced by half then add one cup of water.
Slowly reduce until the liquid coats the vegetables but the dish is still juicy. Taste for salt. I do not add salt until this step because the sausage has a lot of salt and you may not need it
Serve immediately or chill and reheat the next day to blend the flavors.
In my experience, tomato paste should always be fried in oil until it darkens and caramelizes a bit. It removes any metallic flavor and mellows the paste, changing its texture and softening it. This step will improve the flavor of any dish calling for tomato paste.
Some may question why sausage needs salt, aside from its role as seasoning. Salt reacts with the fat in the raw pork, firming up the sausage so they don’t break when you fry them. I never season dishes with sausage until they are cooked and I taste for salt. Most of the time you won’t need more.
This is a dish that welcomes improvisation. You could add blanched green beans or canned cannellini beans, or both. Cooked macaroni could be finished in the stew and dusted with Parmesan. Wing it!