After returning from a two-week holiday stay with family in Rhode Island, Jeff and I were in a bit of a funk. San Diego suddenly seemed too quiet, too sunny, too bland. We missed the crunch of snow beneath our feet, the hearty bowls of quahog chowder and the sight of a pink and orange Dunkin' Donuts on every street corner. More than anything, we missed the accents.
"You want sugah in your cawfee?"
"Hey, Joe, we got any more baked, stuffed lobstahs in the back?"
"How much rigawt cheese you want?" (That's ricotta in case you didn't know.)
But my personal favorite, which you'll hear most commonly at Italian delis, is, "Yeah, give me a sossig and peppiz."
Sossig and peppiz. It's one of the ultimate Italian-American comfort foods. Sweet or hot Italian sausage is pan-fried with onions and peppers and stuffed into a long Italian roll. Melted provolone or mozzarella is optional.
Since we were really missing home, we feared that sossig and peppiz alone wouldn't be enough. We needed more solace, specifically in the form of pasta. Hence today's recipe: Italian Sausage and Peppers Macaroni and Cheese.
Spicy hot Italian fennel sausage, onions and red bell peppers are sauteed until browned and glistening. Then they're tossed with chewy lined penne and drowned in a soothing cream sauce made with Italico cheese.
Like mozzarella, Italico is a mild, slightly sweet and tangy semi-soft cheese that turns irresistibly gooey when it melts. It was destined for macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches and pizza. It's also one of the cheeses used for the Wisconsin's Milk Marketing Board's second annual 30 Days, 30 Ways with Macaroni and Cheese blog, in which I'm participating.
Just so you know, the sossig and peppiz mac n' cheese did the trick. Jeff and I have been feeling much better, though we still miss seeing Dunkin' Donuts.
Italian Sausage and Pepper Macaroni & Cheese
Makes 6-8 servings
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 pound hot fennel Italian sausage, removed from the casing
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 pound lined penne
8 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
6 cups whole milk
4 cups (16 ounces) Italico cheese, grated
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
A few shakes of salt and black pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, thinly sliced
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with butter or cooking spray.
2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm olive oil. Add onion and saute 3 minutes or until softened. Add sausage and cook for 8-10 minutes or until browned all over and no longer pink. Add red bell pepper and cook 2 minutes until softened.
3. Cook pasta in salted water, about 2 minutes short of being fully cooked; it will finish cooking in the oven. Drain the cooked pasta, but do not rinse.
4. Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour. Gradually add milk, whisking continuously until it reaches a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-7 minutes, or until thick and bubbly.
5. Add cooked sausage and pepper mixture, Italico cheese, cream sauce, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper, basil and parsley. Stir well. Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the cheese sauce is bubbling around the edges.
For more delicious macaroni and cheese recipes, check out http://www.30days30waysmacandcheese.com/.
You might also enjoy these cheesy pasta recipes from Food Blogga:
Heaven-Sent Macaroni and Cheese (with Gruyere cheese)
Italian Macaroni and Cheese with Pancetta (with Fontiago Cheese)
Orange Cauliflower Mac 'n Cheese (yes, it's healthier and good)
Light and Creamy Parpadelle with Mascarpone Cheese and Broccolini