This variation of a well-loved Italian dish is reminiscent of caponata: Spicy Italian sausage, sweet crisp peppers, onions and eggplant are enveloped in a rich tomato sauce. The “Sicilian” twist is the addition of anchovies, sweet raisins and pignoli (pine) nuts – pantry staples in a Sicilian kitchen. This savory and sweet dish will be a delightful change to the same old sausage and peppers at your next summer barbeque.
1 pound Italian sausage
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium eggplant, diced
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 green bell pepper, julienned
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, julienned
1 sweet onion, julienned
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar, or more to taste
3 anchovies in oil
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup pignoli (pine) nuts, toasted
Grill or broiler, large non-stick skillet
Prepare the sausage:
Heat the grill, or preheat the oven to 375°F. Cook sausage until nicely browned and cooked through. Remove the cooked sausage to a platter and keep warm by covering with aluminum foil.
Toast the pignoli:
Place the pine nuts in a dry skillet and heat over medium heat. Gently swirl them in the pan until they are nicely toasted and starting to develop some color. Set aside.
[Chef’s Note: Be extra careful when toasting any nuts, especially pine nuts, which are high in oil. They can go from nicely browned to black in a matter of seconds, so keep a close eye on them, and just when they’re a little under the color you want, take them off the heat and remove from the pan immediately.]
Prepare the peppers and sauce:
Heat a large non-stick skillet and add the extra virgin olive oil. Add the eggplant cubes to the oil and sauté until slightly browned. Add the peppers, onions and garlic and continue to sauté until all the vegetables are caramelized and softened.
Whisk the tomato paste with the water and balsamic vinegar, add to the pepper mixture and mix well. Add the sugar and anchovies and blend well. Remove from the heat and sprinkle in the raisins and pignoli nuts. Place along side of the sausage on the platter and serve.
[Chef’s Note: The peppers and sauce mixture can be made ahead. As a matter of fact, it tastes better if the flavors have time to develop. Serve warm or at room temperature along with freshly grilled sausage and a crusty loaf of Italian bread.]
Recipe and photo by Lia Soscia