A Delicious Make-Ahead Menu for Tailgating

Fall welcomes cool weather and football games. And, who doesn’t like a good tailgate meal before the big game? When our children were both students at the University of Michigan, we were invited to many tailgate parties before games in the Big House in Ann Arbor – and I perfected the art of eating well while tailgating.

Start with a few appetizers, along with your favorite craft beer and wine for the adults and limeade or lemonade for the kids. Finger food is the easiest for serving and eating. Guacamole and tortilla chips are always popular, but it is also nice to provide another kind of dip or hummus and serve it with raw or blanched vegetables.

For the main course and side dish, try the two make-ahead recipes below. The sandwiches are prepared ahead and grilled. A fruit salad will make a nice accompaniment to round out the meal. Have assorted cookies, mini cupcakes or brownies for dessert.

Sausage and Pepper Hoagies

Serves 4 (and is easily doubled or tripled for a crowd)

For the peppers:

  • 2 bell peppers, preferably 1 red and 1 green
  • 1 small sweet onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

For the sausages:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 (5- to 6-inch long) hot or mild Italian sausages
  • 4 (6- to 7-inch) hoagie or Italian rolls, split
  • Hot sports peppers, optional

Directions for peppers:

1. Stem and seed the peppers and cut into thin strips.

2. Cut the onion in half lengthwise, place cut sides down and cut into thin slices.

3. Heat the oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add bell peppers, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 16 to 18 minutes or until tender.

4. Stir in oregano, salt and pepper flakes.

5. Cool completely and transfer the mixture to a large sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil.

6. Fold two sides of the foil together over the peppers and fold ends over forming a packet and refrigerate.

Directions for sausages:

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sausages and cook, turning occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

2. Cool the sausages and refrigerate.

Directions to reheat:

1. Prepare a barbecue grill for medium-high heat.

2. Place the packet of peppers and the sausages on the grid and grill covered for 8 minutes, turning once after 4 minutes.

3. Place the hoagie rolls cut sides down on the edges of the grid for the last 2 minutes of grilling.

4. Serve the sausages in the rolls and top with the peppers. If desired, serve with the hot sports peppers for any chili heads in your group.

Tailgate menu: Sausage and Pepper Hoagies  |  makeitbetter.net

Cannellini and Tomato Salad

Serves 4 (and is easily doubled or tripled for a crowd)

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic or white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon each: salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (15 to 16 ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried


1. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

2. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

3. Transfer to a portable container and refrigerate until serving time.

Tailgate menu: Cannellini and Tomato Salad  |  makeitbetter.net

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