PEPPERED WITH STUFF!
Stuffed Italian Peppers are easy winners every time! They make the most of your garden bounty if you are lucky enough to have them growing there. If not, there are some gorgeous and colorful specimens to be found at your local farmer’s markets. For the girls out there, these wonders are the “Manolo’s” of your local farmer’s markets. You know what I’m talkin’ about, gals! Museum quality - standing alone or accessorized by an amazing stuffing and sumptuous sauce, they are the perfect illustrations of how no one does it better than Mother Nature! (Excuse me, but did I just compare peppers to shoes? Think I did!)
These lovelies are favorites in our household, with Tom being a huge fan. Stuffed Peppers, Italian style,make a beautiful presentation, thanks to their vivid colors – one that your guests will be talking about long after enjoying them. I suggest using one of each color available to get the maximum visual impact. I strongly caution you, however, if at all possible, to try to make the stuffing when no one is around to ensure that there will be enough left to put in the peppers! This stuffing is hard to resist!
Stuffed Peppers are great any time of year. They are simply perfect to serve On the Patio (my favorite place to dine!) in the spring and summer. The colors reflect those of the garden and represent the glory of the fresh local markets which I love and are available during this period. However, they are rich and hearty enough for winter fare as well. Anytime, anywhere – a healthy and beautiful presentation of Stuffed Peppers is the quintessential “meal in a cup” enhancing your table with its rainbow hues – OOOO-LA-LA! What could be better?
The peppers can be served as a meal in themselves, in which case you might want to plan for one whole pepper per person – or as a side dish with a half pepper per person. If you are fortunate enough to find the small “mini” ones, they make amazing appetizer/first courses. They are beautiful on the plate with two being sufficient for each person – unless you are me - in which case you must have 3!
They are wonderful left over seeming almost more flavorful the next day – which offers a great opportunity to make them a day in advance and reheat to serve. The sausage in the stuffing is definitely optional which offers the opportunity for making this a completely vegetarian dish.
This recipe provides 4 LARGE peppers and will serve 4 when left whole or 8 served in halves as a side to grilled meats or fish. You can stuff them whole or stuff the halves. I have made them both ways successfully. No Rules! My mother, Loretta, made them both ways as well depending upon her whim. Truthfully, I especially like to stuff them whole – just a little more drama for the mama! Troppo Bella! ( you can always cut them after baking to serve)
To roast, Loretta used to simply put a little olive oil, garlic and tomatoes, fresh or canned, in the bottom of the baking dish. I prefer to make a simple, quick and easy Marinara Sauce (see below) for the peppers to “swim” in. I think it adds a little more depth of flavor. She also liked to put Mozzarella Cheese on the top of the peppers. I don’t choose to do this, as the Mozzarella seems a little heavy for me with this dish. As usual, I like to tweak things a little!
These peppers are very EASY to make. You can take that to the bank! So- go ahead – make the Marinara Sauce and the stuffing a day ahead if you like or even the peppers, themselves!
Note the use of Red Pepper Flakes which is optional. This would definitely be Attilio’s addition (my spice loving Dad!) to both the stuffing and the sauce and I, personally, could not do without it in most cases. The Napoletana acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree!
Read more about Loretta and Attilio in About Linda at Linda’s Italian Table <click here !
As a pairing, I suggest an Italian wine such as a Sangiovese, a medium to full bodied red coming from the heart of Tuscany – not overly dry but just about right for my taste to go with the Stuffed Peppers. Antinori makes a good one, but there are many.
ITALIAN STUFFED PEPPERS
4 Large Peppers – one of each color if possible.
Slice off the tops as in the photo and chop the pepper meat from these tops and reserve for the stuffing
Remove the seeds and fibrous veins from inside the peppers and discard them.
Set peppers aside.
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic chopped finely
1 medium onion chopped
Chopped reserved pepper
2 links sausage meat removed from casings and broken into bits (OPTIONAL FOR A DELICIOUS VEGETARIAN VERSION)
Dash Red Pepper flakes (optional)
1/3 c. chopped parsley – Italian flat leaf preferable
Saute garlic, onion, meat from pepper tops about 4 minutes – med. Heat in fry pan. Add the sausage meat at this point to brown if you are using meat and red pepper flakes. Add the chopped parsley and remove from heat. See the beautiful colors in the photos – looks like confetti!
2 c. fresh bread crumbs – Italian bread is great for this
1 1/2 c. cooked rice
3 generous tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 c. capers rinsed and drained ( I like the tiny capers for this)
1 1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put crumbs and rice in large bowl. Add the vegetables and sausage from the fry pan to the bowl. Mix together. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano, capers, salt, pepper and eggs. Mix all together. If a little dry you can add a few drops of olive oil.
Stuff the peppers. If your peppers are smaller and there is left over stuffing, you can put it around the peppers with the sauce. The stuffing soaked in the luscious sauce just rocks!
QUICK MARINARA SAUCE
1 clove garlic finely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 28 oz. can peeled Italian tomatoes – crush them with clean hands or put in blender and give 1 quick blend)
1/3 c. fresh basil chopped
1/4 c. fresh oregano chopped
1/3 c. parsley – flat leaf Italian preferable
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Dash red pepper flakes (optional)
Saute garlic in the olive oil for a couple of minutes at med. high (do not burn the garlic!) Add the tomatoes, fresh herbs, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes. Simmer 30 min.
Ready to go!
Put a little sauce in deep pan or baking dish, Nestle the stuffed peppers in the sauce propping them upright.
Top each pepper with a spoonful of sauce. Then sprinkle each with a generous teaspoon or more if you like of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Finish each with a little chopped parsley.
Pour the remaining sauce around the bottom of the pan – giving the peppers a little wading pool. Check your peppers 1/2 way through – if the sauce is drying, add a little water to it. Do not let it dry out.
Bake in a 350 oven uncovered for 1 hour. (longer if necessary – if you are using particularly tough peppers) Fork should slide easily just into the pepper skin. Remove from oven and cool slightly and serve whole or halved.
Uh oh! I’m in “gotta have it-ville” for one of these right now. Guess what Linda’s Italian Table is cooking up for dinner tonight!!
PARLA COME MANGI!
Also: See the RECIPE OF THE MONTH on LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE!
Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography