Thursday, April 17, 2014

Low-Carb Casserole: Garlic-Lover's Italian Sausage Bake

The following recipe is the first thing I cooked in my new oven in the Silver Sausage (aka RV-Que) here at camp. I wanted lasagna or spaghetti with meat sauce, but Greg is being so good and getting such great results with his low-carb diet that noodles, pasta or other carbs were out of the question. So I threw this low-carb Italian sausage casserole together as hearty supper using the ingredients I had on hand that would work for both of us.

My recipe calls for dried herbs because that's all I had at the time. Normally I would have included some rosemary but I was out. Feel free to add some with the other herbs if you wish. Instead of an Italian cheese, I used a local cheddar-style hoop cheese because that's what was available when we went to the little grocery store in town. For a more authentically Italian flavor use mozzarella, or parmesan or other Italian cheese. We also happened to be out of eggs, which is why there are none in this recipe and why I'm calling it an Italian Sausage "Bake" rather than a "casserole." The absence of eggs and bread crumbs or other such binders resulted in a looser consistency that was spoonable but could not be cut into neat portions. In other words, the finished product wasn't exactly pretty when served... but once we took a bite we quickly forgot about appearances and happily tucked in. I hope you will do likewise.

One last note: If you are not on a low-carb diet, you are more than welcome to spoon this zesty sausage bake over cooked pasta, or enjoy it with some bread.

1 lb bulk Italian pork sausage
Optional: Olive Oil for sauteing
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
Lots of fresh garlic cloves (I used 20), crushed then minced
4 oz. sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
Recipe for Italian sausage casserole
Simmering everything before baking
Small bunch of dark leafy greens (e.g., chard, spinach, kale... I used fresh radish tops), finely chopped to make 1 cup
1/4 cup red wine (something Italian is perfect)
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 Tbs dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp rubbed sage
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
1 1/2 cups shredded or grated cheese

Brown the sausage in a large, deep skillet, stirring regularly to break up clumps. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the browned sausage into a medium pot or saucepan and keep warm over low heat. Drain off some of the rendered pork fat from the skillet, leaving about 2 Tbs for sauteing (that's what I did), or, if you prefer a healthier fat, drain off and discard all of the pork fat and add about 2 Tbs olive oil to the pan. Add onion and saute over medium heat until soft and translucent. Stir in bell pepper & garlic and saute until soft. Add mushrooms, chopped greens & red wine, and saute until the greens have wilted and the liquid in the pan has reduced somewhat.

Low-carb Italian sausage bakeTransfer the sauteed vegetable mixture into the pot with the sausage. Add the undrained tomatoes, herbs and seasonings to the pot (do not add cheese), and stir to combine well. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes uncovered at a simmer, stirring occasionally, until much of the liquid has evaporated -- you want a consistency that's thicker and drier than a sauce, but not completely dry.

When the mixture looks almost ready, preheat oven to 350°F. When the sausage mixture is cooked to the right consistency, pour it into a casserole dish (I didn't grease it and it came out just fine). Sprinkle top with cheese and bake at 350°F until the cheese is bubbly and lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Makes approx. 6 servings. Serve in bowls, and for a spicier flavor splash on some of your favorite all-purpose hot sauce.

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company

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