When I spent three weeks in Florida over the winter, I went to Romano’s Macaroni Grill for the second time in my life – and this time I was a little impressed. I know it’s a chain restaurant, but my husband and I are picky, especially about Italian food. We, after all, have been eating our mamma’s Italian cooking since we were born. And the Italian chain has a “tapas” menu, which is a little silly because “tapas” is Spanish. Antipasto is Italian. Still, these cocktail foods were smaller portions of deliciousness. Upon his first bite of “Chianti Sausage and Crispy Potatoes,” my husband – the native Italian – told me I had to find a way to replicate this dish.
Back at home in New Jersey, I practiced, and I think I finally managed to copy the recipe just before we left for Italy. So, I thought I’d share. Many an Italian American I know uses red wine in their sausage, peppers, and onions, and this recipe is an homage to that one, I think. I didn’t have Chianti, so I used my father’s homemade red wine.
What I did to start was smash two to three cloves of garlic (depends how much garlic you like and how much sausage you are making. I was making enough sausage for my husband and me, so I just used two cloves). Add them to the pan. You could also add onions to the pan at this point (if you’d like to make a more traditional sausage and peppers dish). Add olive oil and heat it on medium high to infuse the oil with the garlic. Then, add the peppers. Use some sweet and some jalapeno or hot peppers. You could even use crushed red pepper instead of the spicy peppers and let them wilt again in the oil and garlic. You might have to adjust the heat to keep the garlic from burning. Then, add the sausage. Just before the sausage is going to completely brown, add the red wine. Now, you want to reduce the wine a bit, so you burn off the alcohol. But you still want there to be enough, so that there is a sauce for dipping crusty bread in after you’ve finished eating the sausage and peppers. In fact, that’s my husband’s favorite part of the dish, in fact. I actually should have used more wine and reduced it less, so that hubby could have had more sauce. I’ll keep that in mind for next time.
The potatoes are even easier to make. You can peel the potato or scrub the skin and keep it on, whatever your preference. Slice the potatoes about one and half inches thick. Stir them in olive oil and salt and place them in one layer on a baking sheet with parchment paper on it. Bake them at about 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. Then, keep checking until they get browned and crispy. At Macaroni Grill, the potatoes are standing up on a pick. I used my fondue fork to give a similar effect. While the potatoes are still hot, I load them onto the fondue fork, add a little more sea salt, and then I grate Parmigiano cheese on top. Go easy on the salt, though, because the cheese is salty, too. That’s the recipe. Buon appetito!