I swear it was just moments—okay, maybe hours—after I made these grinders for Bruce that he asked me to marry him….
My mom used to make these on Sunday nights when we were growing up—that was when heros and subs were called grinders. We lived in NYC, and she used to go to a little deli Italian deli near Bloomingdale’s to buy really good sausage, which, at the time, you couldn’t get at your neighborhood Gristedes. (She also used to go to that deli to get salami and provolone grinders for road trips to Connecticut–that was before kids had DVD players in the car, or iphones, or ipods. Positively prehistoric…but, man, it was hard to sit still for nearly three hours without asking “How much longer?” and sending my dad in fits of impatience/annoyance/and get me back to the office.)
Back to the sausage grinder. I loved them then, and I love them now (but make them rarely because, really, what justifies a meal like this except pure piggishness, which is not exactly what you want to teach your 12-year-old daughter?). And, as for Bruce: Years later, he still looks at me differently when he sits down to a dinner of these grinders.
They’re totally simple to make. Just buy enough good crusty Italian bread to make bigger-than-normal sandwiches for however many pigs you’re feeding. Figure one to two Italian sausages per sandwich (we like hot, but sometimes mix hot and sweet…and NO, THIS DOES NOT WORK WITH TURKEY SAUSAGE, you lightweight!). So…I just saute the sausages with slices of onions and peppers, then plop in cans of peeled whole tomatoes in tomato puree to cover. Let simmer until your whole kitchen smells like it’s been hijacked to Italy. Slice the bread into giant sandwiches and cut through so you have a top and bottom for each. Pile on the sausages (I usually slice in half the long way so the flat side sits securely), and ladle the tomato sauce, scooping up lots of onions and pepper to deposit on top of the sausages. Sprinkle generously with good grated Parmesan…and then put handfuls of grated mozzarella on top of that. Top with the other piece of bread, wrap each sandwich tightly with aluminum foil, and put in the oven (375 degrees) until cheese melts and bread crisps.
Tonight is your night!