My cousin Shirley was part of the inspiration behind today’s casserole post. She had given me a jar of cheddar sauce she had getting close to its expiration date in the cupboard. I normally make my own sauces but I’m willing to try new stuff. I had a bag of small sweet bell peppers in my fridge that were going to start getting grey hairs and I thought a casserole would suit us for dinner along with some grilled sausages.
It annoys me when my P.S. buys those little bags of colorful miniature sweet bell peppers. I get that they’re cute and they’re on sale but cheesh it takes a lot of trimming and cutting for them to be usable! So I usually put off using them until they’re in danger of getting wrinkles and growing old. Poor dears. I take a deep breath and begin by doing a lot of work with a paring knife.
When the peppers were all cut into the sizes I wanted, I put them into my heated nonstick skillet with a drizzle of oil and plenty of salt and pepper. We are going to do the equivalent of roasting them, on the stove top. I sautéed them just until they begin to brown on the edges, leaving them a little firm and crunchy still. They will cook further as we add the rest of the casserole ingredients.
While the peppers browned I had cooked pasta in salted water until al dente in a smaller soup pot. I should admit I rarely time my pasta. I just keep testing it after a few minutes until it’s the texture my mouth deems “al dente”. You could follow the box directions but Mario Batali often tells us on The Chew that those are merely guidelines and not always correct. So there’s that.
I left the drained pasta in the pot and added my browned peppers and a container of cherry tomatoes from the garden that I’d roasted and frozen. You could use a 15 oz can of diced tomatoes if you didn’t roast and freeze tomatoes. I thawed the tomatoes in a bowl and added them to the pot.
Next I opened the jar of cheddar sauce and added that to the pot as well.
I stirred the casserole and was ready for the sausages. Oh I forgot to mention, I had sent my P.S. out to grill a package of chicken brats for me. I wanted them heavily kissed with flames. I like sausages grilled fairly dark! I don’t remember what flavor they were, probably a 3 cheese blend or Asiago. When they were done I sliced them and added them to my casserole pot.
I served the pasta sprinkled with a little shredded cheese and dinner was served. Adding my own flavors that were fairly heavy, the cheddar cheese sauce kind of got lost in the mix. The peppers and sausage were excellent but the Prego cheese sauce could have had more flavor. It would be interesting to make the dish with my own cheddar cheese sauce to see the difference.
All in all it was a good meal and cousin Shirley’s cheese sauce was used to good effect. Thanks again, Shirley!
Perky Pepper Casserole
small bag sweet bell peppers; about 8 peppers cut into 1″ pieces
box of cavatappi or other pasta; prepared to al dente
15 ounces roasted cherry tomatoes or canned tomatoes
14.5 oz jar of Prego cheddar cheese sauce
4 chicken sausages (we like the al fresco or aidells brands); grilled and sliced
salt and pepper to taste
shredded cheese for garnish
Prepare pasta in a large kettle, drain and return to kettle.
In a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat add a drizzle of oil and sauté peppers until browned around the edges. You want the peppers still fairly firm.
Add peppers to pot along with cherry tomatoes and cheddar cheese sauce. Stir well; taste test for seasoning.
Slice grilled sausages and add to pot. Stir well and serve.