Italian Sausage Smoke Bomb: The Ultimate Meatloaf Recipe
In case it escaped you, in January 2009, just in time for Superbowl parties, the arteries of the internet were clogged with bacon. The bodacious Bacon Explosion, a home made sausage log stuffed with bacon, wrapped with bacon, dusted with barbecue spice rub, slathered in barbecue sauce, and then smoked, was featured on all the cooking message boards, Good Morning America, and even got ink in the New York Times.
The Bacon Explosion first occurred in Jason Day’s kitchen in Roeland Park, KS, and tens of thousands of blogs have linked to this waaaay over the top recipe. So I had to try it. And frankly, I was not impressed. The sweet barbecue sauce and barbecue spice rub clash with, and hide, the savory wonderfulness of the sausage and bacon. And bacon inside is redundant. So I modified Day's recipe, taking some concepts from the popular method for serving Italian sausage here in Chicago as I learned it from my wife's Italian-American family.
In Chicago there are scores of restaurants that serve grilled Italian sausage links in a roll smothered in sautéd onion and peppers and, if you wish, topped with gravy (marinara sauce) and melted mozzarella.
For the Italian Sausage Bomb, I have deconstructed the classic sandwich, rearranged the ingredients, and amped it up a notch. I've replaced the bacon stuffing with mozzarella cheese and a mix of peppers and onions. It is then served on pasta and topped with marinara sauce. The result is far more sophisticated and satisfying.
Recipe for Italian Sausage Meatloaf
Makes. 8 servings
Preparation time. About 1/2 hour
Cooking time. About 90 minutes
Drink. Serve this with a big robust dark beer.
1 large green bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, and chopped
1 large red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 ounces mozzarella cheese, cubed
8 ounces prosciutto or bacon
2 pounds Italian sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pinches of salt
1 cup marinara sauce
8 servings of rotini pasta
About the sausage. Most Italian sausage is sold stuffed into casings to form links. But it is also often sold loose. If you can get it loose, do. Italian sausage comes in three flavors: Mild (sometimes called sweet), medium, and hot. You pick. You can add heat by adding red pepper flakes to the stuffing mix.
About the prosciutto. You can substitute pancetta, capicola, or bacon. That's bacon in the picture above.
Cooking options. You can cook this indoors if you like. If you use bacon and it doesn't look done, switch to broil for a few minutes and watch carefully. If can burn quickly. If you are cooking on a grill, instead of cooking this on foil, you can put it on a cedar plank. Soak the plank in warm water for at least an hour, preheat the grill to about 400°F for direct cooking, and then you can put the meat on the plank. It will cook faster than 60 minutes this way and be ready in 35-45 minutes.
Serving options. Instead of serving on pasta, you can serve it on a plate just like meatloaf, on a bun. I have even served it on toasted bread slices.
1) Make my Marvelous Marinara Sauce. You can do this a day or two in advance.
2) Set up a 2-zone fire if you are using a grill. Heat the grill so the medium zone is about 350°F. Go back indoors and lay a strip of aluminum foil at least 12" x 16" on a work surface.
3) If the sausage is in links, slit the casings from end to end with a knife, peel it off, and discard it. Then form the sausage into a ball. Lay the ball in the center of the foil and flatten it so it is at least 1" smaller than the foil on 3 sides and about 1/2" thick.
4) In a bowl, mix the peppers, onion, oregano, salt, and pepper. Place a single layer of stuffing on the sausage up to about 1" of the edge of the sausage. Distribute the cheese on the stuffing. Don't try to cram a lot in. Depending on the size of the peppers and onions, you probably will need less than half in the stuffing. Set the rest of the vegetables aside.
5) Lift one edge of the foil and roll the sausage and bacon around the stuffing, making a loaf. Squeeze the foil at the top fusing the two edges. Pull back the foil and form the loaf until it is cylindrical and snug, sealing the seam and ends with your fingers. Pat it into an an even thickness. Lay the bacon over the top of the loaf with each strip not quite touching. Tuck any loose ends under the loaf.
6) Place your wood chips on the heat source and place the loaf, still in the center of the foil, on the cooker, seam side down in the medium heat zone. Cook for 45 to 60 minutes until it hits an internal temp of 160°F. The bacon should be just right.
7) While it is cooking, heat a frying pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil, and cook the remaining bell peppers and onions until soft. When you are ready to serve, warm the marinara sauce in a saucepan or the microwave.
8) Just before the meat loaf is done, start 1 quart of water boiling in a 2 quart pot. Add 2-3 pinches of salt. Then the pasta. Cook according to the instructions on the bag or box. Just before it is done, bring in the meatloaf.
9) Slice the loaf between the bacon strips. Drain the pasta, put it on the plates, top with the marinara sauce , then the cooked peppers and onions, then the sliced meatloaf.