About Beth

Beth, along with her husband, Mike, is co-owner of two Italian Deli/Markets in St. Louis - Viviano’s Festa Italiano. When not creating yummy new menu items for the deli, she’s the pediatric research lab supervisor at Washington University School of Medicine. Read more out about Viviano’s Festa Italiano.

About Irene

Irene loves to think, read and dream about food. She enjoys cooking & eating in general. Although she demures about her talents, Irene has a finely-tuned palate that her friends envy. She bakes on occasion. The rest of the time she's creating memories with her family and friends. . . or she's learning a new needlecraft technique.

About Deborah

Deborah is a wife, mother, grandmother, traveler, bootlegger, and a very poor speller! As Victor Hazan so eloquently puts it, Deborah has chosen Umbria to be the home of her soul. When she can’t be there in body, she spends her free time cooking & reading about Italy. She blogs mostly about food and about trips – past and future – here: Old Shoes New Trip.

About Doug

Doug lives in Eastern Ontario in a farmhouse built in 1903. He is a retired teacher with four adult children, a wife, a son-in-law, two Irish step-grandchildren and one grandson who he is lucky to hang with a lot. He has way too many books. Doug also blogs at To Slow Time Down.

About Cindy

Cindy lives in Eagle River, Alaska where her freezer is always full of salmon, halibut & shrimp. Cindy participates in several regular cooking challenges. You can read more about her cooking and life in the last frontier on her blog, Baked Alaska.

About Sandi

Sandi is a true Southerner, but a traveler & Italian cook at heart. She lives in Alabama and knows more about fried green tomatoes than fricassees. Her family owned the WhistleStop Café for many years. Sandi also blogs at Whistlestop Cafe Cooking.

About Jan

Jan, a serious home cook, has owned “Essentials” since 1992. She is passionate about all things Italian, especially the cuisine & the language. Jan blogs about her travels (next trip Italy May/June of 2010) at: Keep your Feet in the Street.

About Jerry

Jerry is a food obsessed Canadian. He learned to love Italian food as a child while eating the meals prepared by his Napolitano uncle. He learned to cook Italian foods by watching his uncle cook these feasts for the family. This love of Italian food has been honed through serious personal experimentation in eating and cooking. Willing to try most anything once, Jerry isn't so sure about tripe! Jerry also blogs at Jerry's Thoughts, Musings, and Rants!

About Palma

Palma is a Marriage & Family Therapist in Palm Desert, CA. She’s an Italian-American with a passion for cooking, entertaining, & travel to Italy. She’s always planning her next culinary adventure to Italia on her blog, Palmabella's Passions

About Kim

Kim is our permanent sub and the image above gives you a good idea of the look on her face when she realized she was drafted. Kim loves to eat, drink, travel and cook - probably in that order. When she's not here, you can find her organizing and leading food, wine and beer tours in Europe as co-owner and operator of GrapeHops or blogging at What I Really Think.

« Mushroom, Ham, and Cream Sauce | Main | Embogoné - Cranberry Beans, Sage, and Rosemary Sauce »

Red and Yellow Bell Pepper Sauce with Sausages

I've been anticipating this day from the beginning of our challenge.


It started with my observation that every time pork sausage is listed as an ingredient, Marcella goes out of her way to dictate that it contain no herbs or spices beyond a judicious amount of salt and pepper. Every recipe. Then in his book "Ratio" Michael Ruhlman quotes Marcella's recipe for pork sausage - minus the spices.

I began paying attention to the sweet Italian pork sausages available at all my usual sources. Not one of them was made her way. Not one was free of fennel, oregano, garlic or some other assertive ingredient. This touched off a hunt of epic proportions. Even Marcella suggested that I might be getting a little carried away. But, I was determined to find them.

Eventually an angel by the name of Diane Urzi, the owner of Urzi's Italian Market agreed that if I would order at least 25 pounds, she would follow Marcella's recipe exactly. She even agreed to make it her first batch of the day to ensure that no residual spices were still in the equipment.

And now, I finally get to report on a dish using these wonderful sausages. The sauce had only two main ingredients - sweet red and yellow bell peppers and sweet pork sausage. The onion, tomato, salt, pepper, butter and cheese were there to add depth.

The onions are softened in olive oil. The sausages are cut into 1/2 pieces and browned very briefly in the oil. Then the peeled and cut peppers are added, hanging out in the pan for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the tomatoes. Simmer for about 20 minutes.


Marcella's pasta of choice is fresh homemade pappardella of both egg and spinach variety. The drained pasta is dumped into your serving bowl. Then the sauce is dumped over it. Toss lightly, add butter, toss again. Add parmigiano-reggiano, toss again. Serve immediately.


The sausage was sweet and rich. And without the heavy spices, it didn't overshadow the flavor of the glorious peppers.We enjoyed it with a bold bottle of 2006 Zinfusion from Castoro, one of our favorite wineries in Paso Robles.


Comments (13)

You - carried away? goodness no.

So what are you doing with the other 24 lbs of sausage now? *smile*
Deborah responds: Jrry we sent a package to Marcella & Victor. Then Beth, Irene & I split the rest. If you & Paul would come visit STL, I'd share with you too! :bribe:


Oh man! That looks and sounds so great to me.
I have to do a sausage (out of the casing)recipe in a few days and I'm thinking of just using ground pork. I'll take a look at Ratio, too.


Oh My....I just "swooned" reading your blog post and looking at the photos!


This sounds wonderful! What's the difference between pork sausage that contains no herbs or spice and plain ground pork?

Carole Anne Menzi Collier:

Wonderful tale of searching for sausages. You might know that Marcella suggests bratwurst as an alternative and when she visited us in Amsterdam in 1990 she used the local bratwurst (which in Holland is about as close to the German version as you can get outside of Germany) and was delighted with the results. So maybe there is a simpler alternative.
Just one point as you relay the information about the recipes. A critical aspect of Marcella's instructions is that the time allotments are ALWAYS with a caveat or watch word which says : when it is thoroughly browned, or when it is soft , or whatever. That point overtakes the amount of time since the conditions in every kitchen varies so much. The "when" is very important, not just the timer.


I'm so happy Dan finally got to have a dish with meat! Looks delicious. Great job getting the sausage made.

Susie L:

Love your dedication Deborah! It looks beautiful! For years, all we could get was sausage with fennel as well, so we just started making our own.

Carole Anne, my husband and I met you in Venice in '91! We have often wondered how you were and whether you were still in Amsterdam.

Sorry for being off-topic...

Marcella Hazan:

Deborah, you are a remarkably determined woman. I didn't think you could make this happen. One of the ingredients that I have most strongly desired and been most painfully deprived of during my American years has been real pork sausage as we understand it in Italy. The so-called Italian sausage sold in every deli so repels me that I have had to eliminate sausage entirely from my cooking. But you, with Michael Ruhlman's moral authority backing you up and Diane's precious cooperation, have brought good sausage to my cooking and to our table. We have had the generous sample that you Fed Exed to us in as many ways as we could - sauces, stews, grilled - for as long as it lasted. Let me know how I can contribute to and share in Diane's next 25 pounds.

Un abbraccio! Marcella

Deborah responds: Marcella, it was entirely my pleasure. And, if truth be told, quite a lot of fun.
When your friend, Armando indicated that Volpi's production line just wasn't set up for such a small order, I despaired. Then, upon recommendation from Viviano's we tried the butcher/owner of Mama Toscana's. He was so rude and disrespectful I have vowed to never order another order of Toasted Ravioli provided by his company to all of our local restaurants.
In desperation, I returned to Volpi's and spoke with Armando's daughter. (Armando was visiting Italy at the time.) She is the one who suggested that I try Diane at Urzi's. And the rest is history. :grin:
All I can say is, thank God St. Louis has such a deep rich Italian heritage so that I had more than one place to appeal to.
You can be sure, that we will make another order. And this time Diane says she will grind it just a tiny bit finer, as per your suggestion.

Looks great Deborah. Another one to try, although I won't be ordering 25 pounds of sausage!

Deborah, what is toasted ravioli?

Deborah Responds: Susie, Toasted Ravioli is an "only in St. Louis" appetizer.
Legend has it that a cook accidentally dropped a meat stuffed ravioli into a deep fryer. Somehow this led to an appetizer that consists of 5-6 breaded ravioli, deep fried and served with sauce for dipping and grated cheese.
Almost every restaurant in St. Louis - Italian or not - has it on their menu.

What a beautiful, colorful dish. I don't blame you for being excited about the recipe!

Congrats on your successful search for the proper sausage.

Carole Anne Menzi Collier:

Message for Susie L. Do you mean 1994? I took Marcella's classes in 1990, 1992 and 1994 which was the "repeat" class. How are you doing? Is your husband Mark? He made the piadina but only after collapsing the wall of the floor well. I recall we headed to Harry's for some stiff whiskeys afterwards. Correct?
Carole Anne

Hi Carole Anne,

Yes, it was '94 and you are correct, it was for repeat students except for me!

Poor Mark, the broken flour well will live in infamy, he has never broken a flour well since.

We were thinking of you not very long ago and wondering how you were. We will always remember you for the "meat grain" question and also the broken Baseball Hall of Fame glass.

Harry's Bar for a stiff drink? Yes, we remember that well, although Mark was trying to forget breaking the flour well and letting melted lard flow onto their beautiful floor.

What a fantastic experience. Thank goodness we were part of it!

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