A great new way to enjoy this classic dish!
I have always felt a little conflicted about stuffed peppers. I knew I should like them; after all – the base is a vegetable (hip, hip, hooray!) and they’re typically made with so many other things I love (ground meat, onion, rice, spices, tomatoes, etc.). I only recently figured out what stopped me from loving them and the reason might surprise you. Let’s call it architecture. I find it really difficult to eat stuffed peppers made the traditional way – cutting off the tops and adding the stuffing via that opening. Also, I often found that the rice absorbed so much of the moisture from the meat and vegetable filling that it seemed too dry. Plus, if cheese is added to the top, it’s all gone within the first few bites which makes me sad. My solution? Cut the peppers lengthwise and then they are much easier to eat, plus there is much better cheese distribution. I also solved the problem of dry filling by waiting until just before cooking time to add the rice to the ground meat and tomato mixture. I can’t wait to play around with different flavour profiles now that I’ve got a stuffed pepper technique I am happy with!
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
- 1 pound (454 g) ground chicken, turkey or beef
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) diced fresh mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) red wine (substitute with chicken stock or water if desired)
- 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) diced canned tomatoes and juice (half a 28 oz / 796 mL) can)
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) each dried oregano and basil
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) each salt and pepper
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) Worcestershire sauce
- Few shakes tabasco or other hot sauce
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) rice, cooked with water per package directions
- 5 – 6 fresh peppers
- 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped fresh parsley or basil
- Heat olive oil in a large, broad skillet over medium heat. Add ground meat and cook, stirring often, till no longer pink. Add onions and garlic and cook for 3 – 5 minutes longer, stirring often, until onions are softened
- Add mushrooms to pan and cook, stirring often, until softened (about 4 – 5 minutes). Add wine and cook until liquid is reduced by half.
- Add tomatoes, tomato paste and all seasonings. Stir to blend well then cover and let cook for 10 – 15 minutes over medium low heat, stirring occasionally to break up tomato pieces with a spoon. Once the tomatoes have softened, you can proceed to assembling the peppers or refrigerate the meat mixture for up to 48 hours (or freeze for longer storage; thaw before assembly).
- When ready to assemble the stuffed peppers, preheat the oven to 350F.
- Wash peppers then slice in half lengthwise (from stem to bottom). With the tip of a sharp knife, cut out stem and interior ribs, discarding both and any remaining seeds. Place peppers cut side up in a large parchment-lined baking pan.
- Combine the cooked rice and the meat mixture and carefully stuff each peppers, packing down the mixture slightly but not too tightly. Top each pepper with a generous amount of grated cheese.
- NOTE: If you prefer to assemble peppers and filling ahead of time, refrigerate until ready to cook. Add 2 teaspoons (10 mL) of water to each pepper immediately before cooking.
- Cover pan with a lid or foil. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes, then remove foil and bake 10 minutes more.
- Top cooked peppers with chopped fresh herbs and serve hot.
Makes 10 – 12 stuffed pepper halves, depending upon size of peppers.