Friday, October 17, 2014

Spinach & Parm Meatballs And Sausage With Hot Banana Pepper Sauce

Staring at the takeout menu, the decision is always the same when a hot hoagie is the night's craving. Meatball or hot sausage?  Okay, maybe a steak n' cheese might figure into the equation, too, on occasion. But generally, it's meatball or hot sausage for me.

And then there's the gluten issue getting in the way of simply ordering from a takeout menu. Except for Mandy's Pizza in West View (thank you Steve for doing amazing GF pizzas, hoagies, calzones and pastas ALL in a GF version!), usually if I want a hoagie, it's going to be homemade. As long as I'm doing my own meatballs or hot sausage, why not make it the way I really want it? Why NOT do both meatballs AND sausage in the same sandwich so there are no potential life altering decisions to be made? Why not indeed. So I did.

Every good meatball or sausage hoagie (did you know I still say "sub" sometimes from my years in Maryland?) starts with a doggone good tomato sauce. Since I still have hot banana peppers from the CSA, that's where I started. And really, Italian hot banana peppers are just made for a good sauce on an Italian hoagie! After starting with the peppers, I added lots of garlic, San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil and good red wine. Good start.

My meatballs are a nice light version with chopped fresh spinach and a hefty amount of Parmesan, as well as fresh bread and heavy cream to be sure the meatballs stay light and tender. Because the sauce itself packs a nice wallop of heat, instead of my usual hot sausage, I used sweet Italian sausage and let the sauce carry the heat for the dish. 

Once the sauce, meatballs and sausage had simmered on the stovetop for a while, all that was needed were good, crusty hoagie rolls (or Udi's GF baguettes for me) and a nice smoky provolone to tuck into the sandwich to get all gooey and melty. Just like takeout!

And the leftovers? Turn the sauce, meatballs and sausage into an easy casserole for a dinner the whole family will love! Who doesn't like double duty dinners?! 

Spinach & Parm Meatballs And Sausage 
With Hot Banana Pepper Sauce

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 large sliced banana peppers - HOT ones!, tops removed, seeds removed, sliced across into thin wheels
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 C fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 T Kosher salt
  • lots of freshly ground black peppercorns
  • 2 - 1 lb 12 oz cans of San Marzano tomatoes in puree w/ basil leaf
  • 1/3  (or more?) C good red wine

  • 1 1/3 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T Italian flatleaf parsley, chopped
  • a generous 1/2 C fresh spinach, chopped - measured after chopping
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 t granulated garlic
  • 2 T heavy cream
  • 1 slice firm bread, crumbled finely - I use gluten-free bread to make this GF, but if gluten isn't an issue use something like Pepperidge Farm

  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage links, cut in half and browned in a skillet

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Start with the sauce. In a large pot, add the olive oil and add the banana peppers and garlic. Saute gently until the veggies are softened, but not browned. Add the basil and stir in well, then add the salt & pepper, tomatoes (crushing each tomato with your hand and fingers as you put it in) and wine. Stir well, bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Let simmer gently while making the meatballs & sausage.

In a large bowl, mix all the meatball ingredients well, but lightly. Make meatballs about the size of golf balls and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes until beautifully browned. 

Add meatballs and browned sausage into the sauce and simmer an hour or so. Don't let the sauce reduce too much, but just to a nice spoonable consistency. Stir occasionally, making sure the bottom isn't burning. 

Serve on good crisp hoagie buns with slices of provolone, if you wish. To make these GF, I use Udi's baguettes. Fabulous!

NOTE: What to do with leftovers besides more hoagies? Cut each meatball in half, and the sausages, too. Cook rigatoni or medium shells, drain and add meatballs and sausage with enough sauce to coat the pasta well. Add cubes of mozzarella and some parm, mix well, pour into a large shallow casserole dish, cover with more shredded mozz and bake at 400 degrees just until the casserole bubbles nicely. Serve with a good salad and garlic bread. Easy dinner! 

Oh what the hell, here's a bonus recipe for the casserole:

Meatballs, Sausage & Shells 
Quick and Easy Casserole

  • 8 oz. large shell pasta - I use gluten-free to make this GF - cooked just under al dente to allow for time in the oven
  • 4 C leftover meatballs and sausage, each cut in half
  • 1 C leftover banana pepper sauce
  • 4 oz. sharp provolone, cut in 1/2" dice
  • 4 oz. firm mozzarella, cut in 1/2" dice
  • 4 oz. fontina, cut in 1/4" dice

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Drain the shells and return to the pot. Add the sauce and stir gently to coat, trying to separate the shells. Add the halved meatballs and sausage and the cheeses, again trying to separate the shells so they're evenly distributed with the meats. 

Spray a shallow casserole dish with Pam and pour the mixture into the dish. Bake for about 50 minutes until the cheeses are melted and the casserole is bubbly.

Easy, family pleasing dinner! 

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LaDivaCucina said...

My husband loves meatballs and so do I! Love the combo with the sausage! I have used panko bread crumbs in meatballs before, it give them a different texture, try it next time and see what you think! Love it, mangia! x

Dinner-Planit said...

I've got gluten free panko in the pantry and I'll give that a try next time. Always love a suggestion!

LaDivaCucina said...

I was making hundreds of meatballs for a client for NYE and had two chefs assisting me. We ran out of regular breadcrumbs and due to the higher cost of panko, begrudgingly used them. i also thought it was a waste because they are so great for coating on the outside for extra crispy texture. We did taste tests of the two, the reg breadcrumbs and the panko, and the panko meatballs definitely had a lighter, better texture. Not quite as dense. Brought it up to an executive chef friend of mine and he concurred that the panko do give a different texture. Let me know if you find the same.