I had my first Italian sausage sandwich walking home from school with Regina Toscano. We were on Student Council. She was president. I was secretary. This was Lincoln High School Jersey City, maybe 1962, 1963. We’d probably stayed late and were starving (though now that I think of it—we often had food expeditions after school—sometimes we even took the 108 bus to Manhattan where we’d order shrimp with lobster sauce in an underground restaurant in Chinatown—oh those were days of expanding my food horizons).
One day, we stopped at an Italian sandwich shop. Or was it a deli? A butcher? It might have been on Jackson Avenue. We ordered two sandwiches--one sausage and one meatball. Who knows if it is those sandwiches that I now remember or the many sausages and meatballs that have intervened. But, there is no doubt that those sandwiches were transformative--the first of many eaten and prepared in many delis, street fairs, sub-shops and kitchens. (In one of those unfortunate memory checks I attempt every so often, Regina insists there was no such shop on Jackson Avenue. Rather, she recalls me being thrilled by various leftovers in her family’s refrigerator. In any case, she is surely connected to those first sausages and meatballs.)
She did not, however, provide instruction in sausage preparation. The recipe that became the standard in our house was an adaptation of the sausage and onions recipe from Marcela Hazan. I suspect my version is a little more American--or is that Jersey City? Or Sicilian?
Finely slice about four cups of yellow onions. Saute onions in one tbsp. oil in a heavy saucepan that will be big enough to hold 8-10 sausages (two pounds). Cook onions covered until soft, then uncover and cook until water evaporates and onions become golden brown. The longer you cook the onions, the sweeter they'll be.
Add a can of chopped Italian plum tomatoes with their juice (you could add a little less--but I like it saucy), salt and pepper--cover again and cook another 15-20 minutes.
Use two pounds of fresh Italian sausage--one pound hot, one pound mild. Puncture the skin with a fork in several places. Add sausages to sauce along with one green, and one red pepper, seeded, and cut into thin strips. Marcella says peel peppers first. After hundreds of years of un-peeled peppers, I'm going to do that today! (December 15, 2016). Ok--can't seem to stop making this recipe--it's now December 23, 2017--I am NOT peeling peppers--can't say I discerned the difference.
Cook for another twenty minutes, occasionally turning the sausages. If you’re going to use this as a sauce for pasta, you could cut the sausages into thirds or quarters before cooking.
If you are using this as a pasta sauce, boil water while sausage is cooking. Or make a salad. Before serving the sausage you should try to skim off the fat (if you make it in advance, the fat will harden. You can scrape it off in all its orange splendor and toss away).
Labels: Beef and Pork