It was one of those nights when I didn’t have a plan. As I stood in front of the open freezer, I had to come up with something interesting for dinner. I’d been cleaning garden and farmers market produce all afternoon and had a fridge full of vegetables. That was no problem. What to put on the slider buns I had was the problem.
I found a package of mild Italian sausage and had a craving for lasagna. Lasagna was beyond my energy level, so my next step was to put it on a bun. A sloppy joe made of sausage, tasting like lasagna, on a small bun? Maybe I’d be inventing a new food! I didn’t Google it to see if it actually was invented. I didn’t want to burst my creative bubble.
The frozen sausage was soon thawed with the induction thaw function on my microwave. I’ve recently discovered that function after years and years of owing a microwave. This one we’ve had about 5 years and it thaws without cooking the meat. Coolest function EVER!
While the sausage thawed I’d chopped up a small onion, about 1/2 cup and sautéed it in a nonstick skillet with a drizzle of olive oil.
When the onion was almost translucent, I added 2 cups of zucchini that I’d shredded finely with a hand shredder, not my traditional box shredder. I wanted it finer than usual for the little sliders. I’d also put the zucchini into paper towels and squeezed a lot of the moisture out of it. This zucchini was a very wet one; sometimes they’re a bit dryer and if so you wouldn’t have to remove the moisture.
I let the zucchini sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so it cooked evenly.
Veggies precooked, I crumbled the sausage into the skillet and let it fry until it had the start of a nice brown crust on the bottom. I like the level of flavor the brown crust adds to ground meat. Stirring it often helped the meat to brown. I’d also added fennel and let the flavor cook out into the meat mixture. Fennel is the one defining flavor of lasagna, I’ve discovered.
Next I stirred in half of a small can of tomato paste, about 3 ounces. I just eyeballed it and froze the rest of the tomato paste in a small container for another day. I let the meat mixture simmer for about 10 minutes. I taste tested for salt and pepper and added some of each.
I’d stirred together 1/2 cup each of ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Just before serving I spooned the cheese into the mixture, swirling and marbling it through. I wanted it in places, not totally mixed in. It would be more like lasagna, with its many levels of flavors.
Finally I used the larger cookie scoop to place my lasagna joe mixture on my little slider buns. I served the sliders with a side of beet greens and bacon and dinner was served.
I’m not sure which I liked better, the sliders or the beet greens. Both had such new and delicious flavors it was probably a tie. My P.S. was as happy with the flavors as I was. I was happy that we had leftovers. I had sliders for lunch for a couple of days afterwards. Super tasty even microwaved a few days later!
Zucchini Sausage Sliders
1 small onion; diced (1/2 cup)
2 cups shredded zucchini
1# mild Italian sausage
½ small can tomato paste
1 teaspoon fennel (crushed)
Salt to taste
1/2 cup ricotta
1/2 cup mozzarella; shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan; shredded
Small buns or buns of choice
Sauté the onion in a drizzle of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes, just until it begins to brown.
In a towel, squeeze much of the liquid out of the two cups of zucchini. You can leave some, it will cook out. Add the zucchini to the skillet with a sprinkling of salt (about ½ teaspoon) and sauté for a couple of minutes, separating it out.
Add the sausage and fennel, breaking the sausage up into small chunks as it sautés with the onion and zucchini.
Stir in the tomato paste and let the meat mixture simmer for about 10 minutes on low heat to blend the ingredients and heat through.
Stir together ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses in a separate bowl. Stir into meat mixture with a few long strokes. You want it sort of marbled, not totally mixed.
Spoon onto buns (a cookie scoop worked well for me) and serve hot.