January can be so bleak and dreary and one way to combat the winter blues is to have people over for dinner or for game days. I like to serve appetizers whenever I entertain and this stuffed mushroom recipe is one of my favorites. It is adapted from a recipe my mother got from a friend when we lived in New Jersey. We sometimes make these to go with the antipasto for Easter, typical Italian-American fare. You can change it up a bit by adding bell or spicy peppers, some greens, a bit of mascarpone, prosciutto, bacon, shallots, basil, or parsley. It does take some time to prepare, about an hour and a half, but you can do the filling one day then fill the mushrooms the next if you need to. They freeze well. I have found that if you pulse the filling ingredients in a food processor it becomes more like a paste and easier to fill the mushrooms, so the filling stays inside the cap.
Italian Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms
2 (24 oz.) pkgs. baby Portobello mushrooms (48 for stuffing, the remaining for the filling)
3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Sausage and Mushroom Filling
1 c. chopped mushrooms (you can use some of the stems)
1 c. chopped red onion
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage with fennel seeds, out of casing
1/2 c. Progresso Italian style breadcrumbs
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
1-2 tsp. dried Greek oregano
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Wash and stem 48 mushrooms, save a few stems for the filling, and discard the rest of the stems. Leave the mushrooms whole and place stem side up on the baking sheets. Drizzle about 1/4 c. olive oil over the mushrooms to moisten them. Sprinkle mushrooms with salt, pepper, a little onion powder and garlic powder. Roast mushrooms for 15 minutes until the mushrooms begin to soften but still hold their shape. Remove from oven and let the mushrooms rest on a rack. Do not drain the accumulated mushroom liquid; you will use it to help moisten the filling. While the mushrooms are roasting heat 1/4 c. olive oil in a frying pan. When hot, add crumbled sausage. Cover and sauté for 5 minutes, then stir and break up large sausage clumps with a wooden spoon. Add chopped mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Cover and continue cooking for 8 minutes longer until sausage is brown and the vegetables are softened. Pour the cooked sausage mixture into the bowl of a food processor. Add breadcrumbs, cheese, 1/4 c. olive oil, a little salt and pepper and the accumulated mushroom liquid from roasting the whole mushrooms. Pulse until you get a thick paste. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking with more cheese, salt, and pepper. Use a spoon to stuff the whole roasted mushrooms. Sprinkle the tops of the stuffed mushrooms with oregano and a grating of Parmesan cheese. Drizzle the top with a bit of olive oil and broil on high for 3-5 minutes until the filling browns and has a slightly crunchy top. Plan on 3-4 mushrooms per person. Serves 12-15 people.