Thank goodness Hurricane Ernesto passed by with a few tree limbs down and a little lake in our driveway. We were smart and stayed in for dinner. The menu for the evening, you ask? Italian sausage braised in tomato sauce served with roasted peppers and melted fresh mozzarella on French bread slices.
First of all, I roasted a red bell pepper: blackening on top of a gas burner and sealing it in a plastic zip-lock style bag until cool. I then peeled off the blackened skin, got rid of the seeds, sliced it into 8 pieces, and set it aside.
Then, in a small bowl, I mixed 1 teaspoon of dried basil with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and set it aside.
Next, I opened a 14 ½ ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes and dumped them in a 1 quart pot. I took out my electric emulsifier/whipper (for any of you Emeril fans, it’s the boat motor) and pureed the tomatoes (no tomato chunks for me!).
Then, I took 2 sweet Italian sausages (mine were from The Fresh Market) and cut them in half to make 4 small links, added them to the tomatoes, sprinkled about 2 teaspoons of dried oregano over the sauce, and added 1 bay leaf. I stirred up everything and turned the stove burner to low, letting the pot simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. About halfway through the simmer, I poked a couple of holes on either side of the sausage with a sharp knife.
About 20 minutes before I served the sausages, I turned the oven on to 475 degrees to preheat and assembled the pepper-cheese-French bread thingies. I cut 8 slices of French bread, ½ inch thick, and brushed one side with the olive oil and basil mixture and then placed the slices (oil side up) on a cookie sheet lined with foil. I then cut ¼ inch slices of fresh mozzarella and put them on top of the bread and topped the cheese with a roasted red pepper slice. Into the oven they went for about 10 minutes or until the cheese was slightly melted.
To serve, I placed 2 sausages on each plate, spooned sauce over them, and sprinkled with grated Romano cheese (none of the canned stuff, please!). Each plate also received 4 French bread thingies along with a few plain slices of French bread to mop up any remaining sauce.
I enjoyed how the sausage and the sauce melded together. Neither one overpowered the other. And roasted red peppers are always a favorite. And, usually, with a dish like this and if I have any on hand, I would pop open a bottle of red Italian wine (Chianti Classico, Barbera d’Asti, or Montepulciano); however, neither my husband nor I felt like wine, thus, we had iced tea.