Sausage and Peppers Rolls
My Aunt Ann is one of the best cooks I know. She has an ability to replicate any dish she tries anywhere and also to create totally amazing dishes simply from the ingredients in her pantry. As often as we both have the time, we get together to cook. It’s a very interesting event to watch because we have incredibly different approaches to cooking. When it comes to chopping, dicing, and shredding, I am methodical and perfectionistic (to a fault); everything my aunt makes is fine at just a rough chop. Any caution I bring into the equation is thrown to the wind as soon as my aunt joins, which somehow makes us both better cooks. She has an incredible ability to pair flavors and ingredients. Our very different approaches combine quite nicely and result in ambitious meals and lots of fun and disagreement.
My aunt make these sausage and peppers rolls that are absolutely wonderful. There is nothing too crazy about them but cousin swears that she could quit her day job and instead just make and sell these. I don’t think he is wrong. My recipe is slightly different from my aunt’s. She uses links of sausage and I use ground sausage. The difference is mostly just in presentation.
When I make these, I normally make a whole bunch of them and freeze them. Then, when I need a snack between work and school and don’t have time to cook or need something before bed and am too tired to cook, I just throw one of these in the microwave for 1-2 minutes and chow down. Disclaimer: I also use these as a post-bar munchie on a Friday or Saturday night. Your drunk friends will be super impressed and love you forever if you feed these to them after bar-hopping. I’m almost certain they prevent hangovers.
The name of these has been hotly debated. When my aunt makes them with links, they resemble a cannoli. In that form, I’ve also heard Italian pigs-in-a-blanket (which my aunt and I hate) and sausage rolls. When made with ground Italian sausage, they have been called pizza bites, sausage and pepper pizza pockets, and mini calzones. There is one name that stuck out to me the most. I absolutely hate them being compared to this but it probably the most accurate description. One friend said, “So, they’re basically just homemade Hot Pockets with way better ingredients?” At first, I was offended by the comparison. Then, I realized that, yes, that is almost exactly what they are.
No more introduction is needed. Here is the recipe for a freezer staple in my apartment.
**For the pizza dough, I just buy the freshly made pizza dough that is normally for sale near the deli at the grocery store.
Homemade Hot Pockets
Cook Time: 2/3 of an episode of House of Cards (approx. 35 minutes)
3 Anaheim peppers
2 lb spicy (or mild) Italian sausage
4 cloves of garlic
8 oz mozzarella cheese
32 oz pizza dough
a. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
b. In a large saute pan, brown the Italian sausage over medium heat. Use your spatula to break up the Italian sausage into small pieces. Cook until there is no pink at all left in the sausage. Once it is totally browned, drain all of the grease from the pan. You can do this simply by lining a plate with paper towel and putting the Italian sausage onto that. If you still have a lot of big chunks of sausage, use a knife to roughly chop it.
c. Dice up the Anaheim peppers. To do this, cut off the top of the pepper with the stem. Cut down the length of the pepper and pull it open. Scrape out the seeds. Now, cut ¼ inch strips down the length of the pepper. Then turn the strips and cut every ¼ of an inch down them. You’ll end up with small, square-ish pieces of pepper.
d. Mince the garlic. First, peel the cloves. Second, cut off the part of the clove that was attached to the whole bulb. Now, just use your knife to chop back and forth across the garlic to finely chop it.
e. In a large bowl, mix sausage, peppers, and garlic together until evenly distributed throughout.
f. Use a cheese grater to shred the mozzarella cheese.
2. Use a rolling pin (or a wine bottle) to roll out the dough. I rolled the dough out in two separate pieces because it was a lot of dough to roll out at once. You will want to roll it out about as thin as you can. If it is sticking too much to your counter or rolling pin, simply dust a little flour on the counter or the top of the dough. The more square or rectangle you can get it, the more uniform your finished product will be. This only matters as much as it you care about uniformity.
3. Cut the dough into rectangles about 4 inches wide and 8 inches long. Really, cut them into whatever size you want but make sure it is a shape that can be folded in half.
4. Spoon the sausage mixture onto the dough. You will want to keep it on half of each piece of dough and towards the center. This way, you still have a small border of dough around the edges.
5. Sprinkle cheese over the sausage mixture.
6. Fold the other half of each piece of dough over on top of the sausage mixture. Press all of the edges together and pinch it to make sure the edges are sealed.
7. Move to a cookie sheet or pizza pan lined with parchment paper.
8. Put in oven for 12-15 minutes. If your pizza pockets are really small, decrease time. Cook until the dough has turned golden brown and seems to be cooked through.
9. Enjoy. If you desire, dip in some sort of sauce.
10. If you want to freeze them, let them cool and put in a gallon freezer Ziploc. Remove all of the air and place in freezer. To reheat, simply put frozen pizza pocket in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.