Sausage and Peppers Panini

If you have ever been looking for a cab in Boston at 1am, especially in Faneuil Hall or Fenway, you know what this dinner smells like.  The smell of grilled Italian sausage, peppers, and onions is ubiquitous with that city, late at night.

Smells are always a pretty powerful memory tool for me.  I have a sensitive nose anyway, and I link times in my life to certain smells without even knowing it.  I was 13 years old and heart broken that the love of my life had dumped me.  You know how it goes when you’re 13 and know everything.  I was shopping with my mom, walked into an Abercrombie and Fitch, and almost melted because it smelled like him.  Super creepy.In my defense, it also smelled like every other boy in my class–there was not a lot of cologne variety, but alas, for me it was that guy.  

By the way, they must pump cologne in the vents there or something; should an A&F ever close or move, good luck to the next retailer.  It’s going to smell like 14 year old boys dressed up for the movies forever.

When I envisioned this panini, it started with wanting sausage and peppers and also wanting to break out my panini press, which I’m still very much in love with.  What happened, though, was that the peppers and onions did their magic with the sausage and all of a sudden I was back on State Street in Boston waiting in a very long line for a sub with my friend Cecelia at 1am.  That sub was worth every minute we stood out in the cold.  Every single one.  Smell is a powerful thing.

Sausage and peppers is a simple and traditional dish that in this case is amped up with crunchy, crusty grilled bread and some melty mozzarella cheese.  Sure, you could go the traditional sub route, but why?  Get a sub in Boston and make some memories.  Make this panini tonight.

Let’s get started.

Slice a red bell pepper and a yellow onion fairly thin.

Remove the casings from a pound of Italian sausage (sweet or hot; pick your poison) and sear them in a cast iron skillet until they are golden brown on all sides.

Once some of the fat has rendered and they are seared, remove them to a plate and split them in half length-wise, so that one side is flat.  This will help you build your sandwich later.

Add the sliced peppers and onions to the skillet and cook on medium-high until they have softened and slightly browned.  Season the vegetables with a little salt and pepper.

When the peppers have browned a bit, lower the heat and nestle the sausages into the peppers and onions, making sure the flat side is touching the skillet.

Let them cook until the sausages are cooked through.  Move around the peppers and onions a bit so they don’t burn, however if they get deeply brown you’re still in good shape.  That’s where the magic is.

Now, let’s build our sandwich.  For me, the perfect sausage and peppers sub has spicy sausage, peppers and onions, and is topped with spicy brown mustard.  Continuing on that thread, spread a thin layer of spicy brown mustard on two slices of sour dough bread.

On one side of the bread, add shredded mozzarella, two sausage halves, then the peppers and onions, then some more mozzarella cheese.  Top with the other piece of bread, mustard side down.

Spray your panini press liberally with cooking spray.  I like to do this instead of buttering the bread because sometimes that can get a little to greasy for my liking.  You just need enough spray so that the bread doesn’t stick.  Place the sandwich on the panini press and press down as much as you can.  Grill until the bread is well toasted and all of the cheese has melted.

Cut in half and serve with chips, or nothing at all–this sandwich is plenty filling.  A nice green salad might be nice for freshness, but that’s up to you.

The charred peppers and onions, the meaty, spicy sausage, and the crispy bread create the perfect blend of comfort and familiarity with the excitement of a new twist.  The textures play off each other perfectly and while it’s no Sausage Sub on State Street (say that five times fast), it’s a pretty good rendition.  Sure, it’s a little messy, but I won’t judge if you won’t.

Here’s the recipe.

Sausage and Peppers Panini
Ingredients

  • 1 loaf sour dough bread, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
  • Spicy brown mustard,
  • Shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • Cooking spray
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. In a large cast iron skillet, sear the sausage on all sides on medium high heat until golden brown.  Remove to a plate and split them in half lengthwise.  
  2. Add the peppers and onions to the skillet and cook until softened and slightly browned.  Nestle the sausages back in the skillet, making sure the cut side of the sausage is touching the skillet.  Lower the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, or until the sausages are cooked through.  Move the peppers and onions around periodically so they don’t burn.
  3. Build your sandwich: on two slices of sour dough, spread a thin layer of spicy brown mustard on each side.  Top one side with shredded mozzarella cheese, then two halves of sausage, then peppers and onions, and then more mozzarella cheese.  
  4. Spray a pre-heated panini press with cooking spray and add the sandwich to the center.  Press as much as you can and cook until the bread is golden brown and crispy and all of the cheese is melted.  Remove to a plate, split in half, and serve with chips, crunchy raw vegetables, or a nice green salad.  We ate ours as is–it’s pretty filling!