The Lost Italian: Italian Sausage with Peppers, Onions ideal for 'Bison Nation' tailgating

My parents are both NDSU alumni, and I grew up going to Bison home games with my Dad and siblings, when the games were still held outdoors at Dacotah Field. Since Tony and I returned to Fargo 13 years ago, I've only been to a handful of games, an...

Italian sausage brats
These Italian sausage brats are garnished with sautéed peppers and onions in tomato sauce and topped with shredded mozzarella cheese. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

My parents are both NDSU alumni, and I grew up going to Bison home games with my Dad and siblings, when the games were still held outdoors at Dacotah Field. Since Tony and I returned to Fargo 13 years ago, I've only been to a handful of games, and this was Tony's second Bison game - ever.

Last weekend Tony, Gio and I had the privilege of attending the Bison home game against the University of Northern Iowa with our friends, Greg and Stacy Rick; their daughters Brenna, Caitlin and Delaney; and new friends, Steve and Leann Wright.

We had planned to join them pre-game for a tailgating extravaganza, but the threat of wintery weather thwarted our plans. As North Dakotans and Minnesotans, we should have known better, since that weather never did materialize.

There are a few reasons for our lack of participation in the local phenomenon better known as "Bison Nation." First, I'm married to a Canadian, and college sports just weren't a part of his upbringing. Second, we're restaurateurs, which means we're not available for recreation on Saturdays like normal people. And third, Tony is a Miami Dolphins fan. He's simply not accustomed to backing a winning team.

It's Homecoming Week at NDSU, and we're joining the celebration with a great tailgating recipe for Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions.


Earlier this year we introduced this dish at Sarello's, and it's become one of our most popular appetizers. For this occasion, we're adding some good, crusty bread like a baguette or ciabatta to create the perfect tailgating sandwich, or "sangwich," as Italians have been known to say.

This recipe is ideal for tailgating because it's simple to prepare, delicious and portable. The sausages can be cooked right on the grill, and you can sauté the peppers and onions on the side burner or even prepare them in advance and warm them up just before serving. We've included our recipe for an easy tomato sauce, but you can also use your favorite from a jar.

Our best wishes to Coach Craig Bohl, the Bison team and staff, and all of the fans and alumni in "Bison Nation" for a Happy Homecoming. Now, get out there on game day and demolish Missouri State.

Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions


3 tablespoons olive oil

1 red bell pepper, cut into half-inch strips

1 green bell pepper, cut into half-inch strips

1 yellow bell pepper, cut into half-inch strips


1 yellow onion, cut into half-inch strips

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup tomato sauce

4 to 6 sweet, mild or hot Italian sausage links

Salt and pepper to taste (we recommend 1 teaspoon each)

1 cup shredded mozzarella or parmesan cheese

4 to 6 rolls (baguette, ciabatta, or hoagies work great)



Sauté the onions with the olive oil over medium to high heat for three minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute, then add the bell peppers. Reduce heat to medium and sauté for eight to 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper, and cook for another minute. Add one cup of tomato sauce and stir to thoroughly heat sauce.

Remove from pan and serve immediately or transfer to a warming station, like a crockpot.

Grill the sausages over direct heat for approximately eight to 10 minutes, until they reach an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees. While the sausages are cooking, slice the bread rolls and grill for about a minute on the open side.

Place the cooked sausage in the roll, add peppers and onions, and top with shredded mozzarella or parmesan cheese.

Tony's tip: Always use a meat thermometer to ensure an accurate cooking temperature.

Easy tomato sauce

Serves: 4 to 6


¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil


2 to 3 large garlic cloves, minced

Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)

28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, pureed

Salt and pepper to taste


In a medium sauce pot, heat olive oil over medium-low heat and sauté garlic for about three to five minutes, stirring often and being careful not to brown the garlic.

Add the crushed red peppers and sauté for another minute. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 15 minutes over low-medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook for another 15-20 minutes.

Cover the pot but leave a little room to allow steam to escape. When the sauce coats the back of a spoon, it's ready to serve. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to five days.

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