You never really know exactly when something becomes a ritual, but we know for certain that Cactus League in Arizona is one of our most cherished rites of spring.
Since 1900, folks have been escaping the chill and heading out west to soak up our desert warmth, hear the crack of the bat and dive into a ballpark dog or maybe peanuts and Cracker Jack.
We love Spring Training and everything that goes with it!
So, this month, it’s a tribute to one of our all-time favorites on the field and off, the grilled Italian sausage sandwich with peppers and onions. Festival style, we call it – the darling of sporting events, carnivals and street fairs.
I am often asked advice on how to cook sausage, and I’ve got to admit, that’s one thing I can do pretty well. Here’s why.
In 1957, my family opened an Italian sausage factory in Lake Tahoe using a recipe developed by my father, who was a butcher by trade. As a little girl, I remember the tiny frying pan in the break room constantly in use, as dad grilled one link after each 75-pound batch of sausage to test for quality.
The meat plant was cold, cold, cold, and that little frying pan – with its minimal output of heat – was my ever-present buddy!
Then, in 1990, I decided to carry on the D’Atri sausage tradition by opening my own factories in Phoenix and Tempe, using the same tried and true 50-year-old family recipe. For several years, our product was featured at most of the Valley’s ballparks and at the 1996 Super Bowl in Tempe.
Needless to say, I love to cook sausage on an outdoor grill or in a frying pan on the cook top. The problem is we often make grilling sausage a lot harder than it should be. We boil, burn and burst it instead of getting that perfect brownish-black coating of caramelized goodness.
So let me share a few tips that have helped me to grill great Italian sausages!
No. 1 Look for an Italian sausage with the classic course grind. You should see little bits of fat, which will render off and add flavor.
No. 2 Don’t boil Italian sausage. You’re losing flavor that way.
Instead, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place sausage links on a baking sheet. Cook for about 15 minutes until links turn a grayish color. Finish them on the grill, about 5 minutes. This ensures the links are cooked inside and caramelized on the outside.
No. 3 To cook sausage in the frying pan, start with a small amount of water, about 1/4 cup per four links. On high heat, cook sausage until water has evaporated. (At this point, sausage will be light in color.) Gently puncture sausage in a few places to release juices. Reduce heat to medium high and cook sausage until caramelized. Turn occasionally for even cooking. You can also cook the sausage with a little bit of oil in the pan.
No. 4 Slice sweet yellow onions pinwheel-style and strips of green or red peppers. (I do two-parts onion to one-part peppers.) In a frying pan or flat grill, cook in a small amount of olive oil or butter until soft and tender. Try these tips and you’ll hit it out of the park every time!