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:
2 TBSP butter
1 cup finely diced onion
1 cup finely diced celery
1 TBSP finely diced hot banana pepper
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 28-ounce can crushed tomato sauce
1 teaspoon worchestire sauce
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
Directions: 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, worchestire 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 Stuffing:
1 TBSP olive oil
½ lb of hot Italian sausage (casings removed)
½ lb of sweet Italian sausage (casings removed)
1 cup of sauce (recipe above)
¼ cup grated romano cheese
½ cup panko breadcrumbs (or Italian-Seasoned breadcrumbs)
Salt and pepper to taste
Directions: In a large skillet, heat 1 TBSP of olive oil over medium-high heat. Remove sausage casings and add sausage to the pan. Use the straight-edge of a spatula or bench-scraper to chop-up the sausage into small pieces. Do this quickly and repeatedly until you have a consistency closer to ground meat. Lower the heat if sausage is browning too quickly. Once all the sausage is browned and cooked thoroughly, shut off the heat. Add the sauce, Romano cheese, and breadcrumbs and stir. Use your spatula to chop the meat-up even finer. Taste. Add more salt and pepper if need.
For the Crostini:
1 french baguette sliced in 24, ½ inch slices
Salt and pepper
1 lb fresh mozzarella cheese
2 TBSP butter
4 hot banana peppers
Salt and pepper
Directions: 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 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.
Cook’s notes: Here’s some variations for you. 1. 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 filling to the sauce and toss-in cooked pasta. Rough-chop the mozzarella and hot-banana pieces and toss in the pasta and serve. 2. 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 remaining sauce over top. Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees F. for one hour.