Flame-Cooked Sausage with Peppers and Onions
This is a quintessential Italian-American dish, one iconic to street festivals, deli and pizzeria menus, feasts, and concession stands at ballparks and stadiums across the US. It's a simple, hearty dish — at turns sweet and salty — that can be eaten for any meal. You can cater it to folks who like things even-keeled or those who enjoy a spicy kick. All of these things make it perfect for fall camping or tailgating, supplying a lingering warmth to gird against crisp air whether you’re hanging in the backyard, sitting fireside at a campsite, or pregaming in a stadium parking lot, drink in hand.
With this dish, it all comes down to personal taste. You can go sweet or hot, or a mix of both, opt for links or pinwheels, and serve on a platter or stuffed inside crusty, chewy sub rolls. Specialty stores sell Italian sausages infused with broccoli rabe, fennel, or a traditional cheese and parsley blend. They're all great, but there’s no real need to get too fancy. The only keys here? Quality pork sausage, and cooking the meat and vegetables separately and evenly.
Cooks at many street festival stands make the dish on a flat-top grill, tossing the veg and turning the sausages to ensure an even cook. That's how D'Angelo's, New York City's famed Queens sausage truck, does it, and that’s how it's done at the annual Feast of San Gennaro, where it's served in crusty rolls handed over in tin foil. Rao’s (the city's hardest red sauce reservation) cookbook, Rao's Classics, advises doing a simple pan fry served family-style. That's also what counter guys suggest at famed sausage institution Faicco's (‘Fry them in some olive oil for 10 minutes in a skillet over low heat and flip halfway through!’). For a fancier version, you can roast the peppers separately, place them in a bowl, and cover them with plastic so the skin steams and makes it easier to peel. And you can bake them in a home oven, of course, at 425°F for 25 minutes.
But it's a great dish to flame cook in an Ooni.
We’ve collected our favorite aspects of all these techniques to inspire this recipe, and you can add flourishes. A slice of mozzarella or provolone to line a buttered sub roll before everything's nestled in? Check. More cheese on top? Why not? Parmesan sprinkle to garnish? Sure! Acclaimed Italian-American chef Lidia Bastianich calls for mushrooms and hot pickled cherry peppers, American sausage purveyor Premio calls for a pan deglaze with white wine and tomato sauce, some recipes call for potato, and adding a sunny-side-up egg isn't unheard of (hello, breakfast). There are few rules, written or unwritten, so have fun and enjoy. But do remember: no ketchup, no mustard, and don't get too fancy. It's not that kind of thing.
Be sure to use gloves or a thick towel to safely remove a hot skillet to a heat-resistant surface. If cooking on a conventional stovetop, follow the Faicco’s advice: Cook the sausage — then peppers and onions separately — in olive oil for 10 minutes each over low heat. Flip the sausage halfway through and toss the peppers and onions periodically as they cook.
40 minutes active time
3 bell peppers (green, red, and yellow), seeded and sliced lengthwise into ¼-inch strips
2 large white or yellow onions, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch strips
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
¼ cup (53 grams) extra-virgin olive oil
1 ¾ to 2 pounds (1 kilogram) coiled Italian sausage, or 12 links
Freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
½ teaspoon dried oregano (optional)
1 cup (248 grams) white wine or 16 ounces (453 grams) tomato sauce or purée (optional)
6 6-inch Italian sub rolls
Preheat your oven to its highest setting for 20 minutes. Prepare the peppers, onions, and garlic and set them aside in a large bowl. Coat the bottom of the cast iron skillet evenly with the extra-virgin olive oil, add the sausage and place the skillet in the oven.
Cook for 4 minutes on high heat. Using oven gloves or a folded over kitchen towel, remove the cast iron to a safe surface. Flip and rotate the sausages and return the skillet to the oven for another 4 minutes, aiming for an internal temperature of 160°F. Remove the skillet to a safe surface and set the sausage aside.
Pour the olive oil and rendered fat from the sausage into the bowl of onions, peppers, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and mix until the oil thoroughly coats everything. Toss the onions and peppers with crushed red pepper and oregano (optional). Put the skillet in the oven.
Cook for 6 minutes, removing the skillet to toss the onions and peppers every minute. Turn off the oven, remove the cast iron, return the sausage to it, then put the skillet back in the oven for up to 3 minutes.
To serve as a sandwich, layer the onions and peppers into an open Italian sub or Portuguese roll sliced lengthwise. Top with sausage the length of the roll (4 links or ¼ of a pinwheel per roll), then finish with more onions and peppers.
Note: For wetter or saucy versions, after cooking the onions and peppers, deglaze the skillet with white wine or add tomato sauce or purée, toss well and return to the oven for 4 minutes.