Melrose peppers are unique to Chicago and were brought here in 1903 by Joseph and Lucia Napoletano from Nocera Inferiore, a small town outside of Naples, Italy. The Napoletano’s brought a handful of the seeds with them to America and found success growing them in their garden in the small suburb of Melrose Park. They are a staple during the late summer months for Chicago Italians! Though it’s uncommon to find these peppers in stores anywhere else, their seeds can be purchased online here. You can sub Melrose peppers for banana peppers or other sweet peppers to recreate this recipe. This recipe feeds 2-4 people.
- 10-12 Melrose peppers (or more depending on how many people you’re feeding) with the stems cut off and seeds removed
- 1 lb ground Italian sausage (hot or mild)
- 15 oz tomato puree + 7 oz of water
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Pecorino-Romano as needed
- Shredded mozzarella cheese as needed
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- Breadcrumbs as needed
- Olive oil as needed
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- In a pan, saute minced garlic in olive oil over medium heat for about 30 seconds. Add ground Italian sausage and a pinch of salt. Cook sausage all the way through.
- When the sausage is cooked, stuff the Melrose peppers with the sausage using a spoon. Arrange stuffed peppers in a large baking dish with a splash of olive oil.
- You may or may not have leftover sausage; add the tomato puree, water and a pinch of salt to the same pan with any leftover sausage. Cook down as long as you like then pour the tomato sauce over the peppers in the baking dish.
- Sprinkle the top with Pecorino, breadcrumbs, mozzarella and ground black pepper.
- Bake peppers for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and golden.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle with more cheese and breadcrumbs. Serve with crusty bread and Chianti! Note: Leftovers make amazing sub sandwiches.