Sausage casserole is a sausage dish cooked alongside vegetables and passata or chopped tomatoes in an oven-proof dish. The technical definition of a casserole is any meal that is served in the dish used to cook it, but general understanding of the term narrows the definition to also be a slow-cooked meal in some kind of sauce. Most sausage casseroles are cooked in a tomato-based sauce alongside vegetables such as potatoes and carrots. Other ingredients can be added to a sausage casserole depending on the chef and guests’ tastes, such as mushrooms and peppers.
A casserole can be simply defined as any dish served in the dish it was cooked in. Most people also think of casserole as a slow-cooked dish including some kind of sauce. A sausage casserole is therefore usually slow-cooked and is generally cooked in a tomato sauce. All of the ingredients are placed into a casserole dish and cooked in the oven, usually for between half an hour and one hour. Longer cooking at a lower temperature is preferred by many cooks, however, because this gives the flavors more time to infuse.
The sausages used in a sausage casserole are usually cooked before being added to the casserole dish. This can be anything from being fully baked in the oven to being shallow-fried in oil to cook through. Precooking the sausages helps to ensure that they aren’t served raw in the center, but not fully cooked sausages will generally finish off in the casserole dish. Some chefs prefer to fry the sausages alongside onions and garlic to increase their flavor before adding them to the casserole.
Most recipes for sausage casserole suggest cooking the sausages in a tomato-based sauce, either made from passata or chopped tomatoes. Passata is basically the juice from tomatoes without any chunks of tomato flesh included, while chopped tomatoes include chunks of tomato. The tomatoes are usually added to the onions, garlic, and other ingredients such as mushrooms and peppers. Depending on how the sausages are cooked, they may also be present in the pan when the tomatoes are added. Herbs and spices such as basil and paprika are often used to increase the flavor of the tomato sauce.
Many different variations exist on the standard recipe for sausage casserole. Some dishes include ingredients such non-traditional ingredients as mushrooms and peppers. Chefs sometimes add some red wine to the tomato sauce to increase the flavor. Recipes can also be found which include beans as another main ingredient, and some also use potatoes.