Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cook sausage, onion, and bell pepper in a 12-inch cast iron pan until sausage is brown and onion and bell pepper are softened.
Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in remaining filling ingredients, EXCEPT cilantro, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add cilantro.
Place the cornmeal mix and sugar in a medium bowl. Stir in buttermilk, egg, and oil. Fold in cheese.
Spoon batter over sausage mixture leaving an area open in the middle (it will cook more evenly this way).
Place in oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until cornbread is lightly browned.
If you don't like cilantro, sub parsley or leave it out altogether. Pinto beans can be used instead of black-eyed peas. Feel free to add more smoked sausage. The original recipe called for a 16-ounce package, but I happened to have a 12-ounce package.
This recipe originally appeared on spicysouthernkitchen.com