My son loves the flavors of stuffed, hot banana peppers, but just not the pepper itself. So I came-up with banana-pepper stuffing and mozzarella cheese on a crostini. He loves them. For the adults in my life, I still add a piece of sautéd banana pepper on top. It's a great appetizer for a party. Keep this one in your recipe box for when we can all get together again.
For the Sauce:
Deconstructed Sausage Bites
For the Sauce
- 2 TBSP butter
- 1 cup finely diced onion
- 1 cup finely diced celery
- 1 TBSP finely diced hot banana pepper
- 2 cloves garlic finely diced
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomato sauce
- 1 tsp Worcester sauce
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp salt
For the Sausage
- 1 TBSP olive oil
- ½ lb sweet, Italian sausage casings removed
- ½ lb hot, Italian sausage casings removed
- 1 cup of sauce (recipe above)
- ¼ cup grated romano cheese
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs or Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
For the Crostini
- olive oil for drizzling over bread
- 1 French baguette cut into 24 ½-inch slices
- salt and pepper
- sausage mixture
- 1 lb fresh mozzarella cheese sliced into 24 pieces
- 2 TBSP butter
- 4 hot banana pepper seed, halved, and each half cut into thirds
To Make the Sauce
- In a large, non-stick skillet, melt 2 TBSP butter over medium heat. Add diced onions and celery and sautė until vegetables are soft (about 10 minutes). Stirring often, add minced banana pepper and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add crushed tomato sauce, Worcester sauce, basil, oregano, black pepper, and salt. Stir. Raise heat and bring to a boil. Once sauce comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer sauce for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste. Reseason with salt and pepper if needed.
For the Sausage Mixture
- In a large, non-stick skillet, over medium-high heat, add casing-free sausages allowing them to brown. Use a hard spatula to continually chop the sausage as it cooks until, eventually, it resembles ground meat.
- Once the sausage is cooked through, add the sauce, romano cheese, and bread crumbs and stir. Mix thoroughly and adjust heat to low.
For the Crostini
- Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a sheet pan with olive oil. Sprinkle the entire sheet pan with salt and pepper. Place baguette slices on a coated pan. Drizzle slices with more olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 9-10 minutes or until golden brown.
- Meanwhile, remove tops from peppers and discard. Slice peppers in half, lengthwise. Remove seeds and cut each half into thirds. (Each pepper should yield 6 pieces.) Melt 2 TBSP butter in a non-stick skillet and lay pieces in a single layer (You may need to do this in two or three batches depending on pan-size.) Sauté peppers for about 4-5 minutes per side and remove from heat.
- To assemble, on a sheet pan, lay down a piece of toasted baguette. Dollop a TBSP of sausage filling on top, and add a slice of fresh mozzarella cheese (I like the logs of pre-sliced fresh mozzarella. It makes life a little easier). Finish crostini with a slice of sautéd pepper, repeat. Heat crostini in the oven until the cheese is melted (4-5 minutes) and serve.
- To turn this into a pasta dish, boil 1 lb of your favorite pasta, following the package’s directions. Double the sauce recipe above. Add the sausage mixture to the sauce and toss-in cooked pasta. Rough-chop the mozzarella and hot-banana pieces and toss in the pasta and serve.
- To turn this dish into good, old-fashioned stuffed banana peppers, just mix in an egg to the cooled sausage mixture. Slice hot banana peppers lengthwise and scoop out the seeds (keeping the bottom-side of the pepper intact.) Stuff each pepper with sausage filling. Coat the bottom of a 9x13 pan with sauce. In a single layer, place stuffed peppers on top and pour the remaining sauce over top. Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees F. for one hour.