Know what’s better than eating delicious food served on a beautiful dish? Eating delicious food and the equally delicious dish it’s served in. If you’ve ever had soup in a bread bowl, you’ve already enjoyed this experience. But summer is around the corner, and soup is going out of favor. Thus we turn our attention to something in season, a versatile something that’s not only great on its own, but one that can act as a delicious bowl: the bell pepper.
Bell peppers are available year-round, but they can be pricey in the milder months. Now that summer is nearly here, so are the deals on bell peppers, including the usually more expensive orange and red varieties. I recently scored half a dozen for just a few bucks at Sprouts Farmers Market. Though peppers are great cut up and grilled or roasted, “Why not use them whole and stuff them?” I thought.
When I was young, my mom made stuffed bell peppers regularly because they come together quickly, can be bolstered with a variety of leftovers such as rice and vegetables, and even freeze well for future lunches and dinners. They also stretch your dollar. If you can find peppers cheap, the only other main ingredient required is ground meat. Beef was the staple when I was young, but I now prefer leaner turkey or chicken. Seafood lovers can go a more exotic route with crab or shrimp, and vegetarians can get stuffed by using whole beans or tofu as foundation for the filling.
This recipe uses ground chicken, but the steps are the same no matter the filling. I bolster this filling with peas and corns, but if that’s not your thing, use veggies of your choice. Likewise, I use leftover rice, but breadcrumbs could also work to make the filling go further.
After cooking the filling in a pan, I use an oven to bake the stuffed peppers (even a toaster oven works), but these could just as easily be finished on an outdoor grill to add a smoky flavor. Bell peppers are not spicy, and the baking process actually helps them take on a sweeter flavor that perfectly complements the savory filling.
Ready to enjoy a meal and then the very vessel it’s in? Let’s make stuffed bell peppers, then stuff ourselves with them.
MATT’S MAGIC STUFFED BELL PEPPERS
(Makes 6 servings)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 a medium white or brown onion, chopped small
- 1 pound ground meat of your choice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 cup frozen or canned corn kernels
- 1/2 cup frozen or canned peas
- 1 cup cooked rice
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1 ½ cups ketchup
- 6 bell peppers, washed
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling
- Garnish: Fresh Italian parsley or cilantro
- Music to make it by: The Script, “Science & Faith“
Step 1: Grab a 3-quart or larger sauté pan, heat over medium-high and add the olive oil. Heat for a minute, tilt the pan so the oil coats the bottom, then throw in the onions. Cook for about 5 minutes, until they are browned, stirring often.
Step 2: Lower the heat to medium and add the meat, breaking it into small pieces. Add the salt, pepper and oregano, and cook the meat until it is nice and browned (or, for poultry, grayish), stirring occasionally. Count on this taking about 10 minutes.
Step 3: While the meat cooks, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and cut the tops off the bell peppers. Carefully reach in and take the seeds and surrounding membrane out of the peppers so there is an empty cavity for the filling.
Step 4: When the meat is just about done (160 degrees for beef and pork, 165 degrees for poultry), add the garlic, rice, vegetables and ketchup, mix well and cook until heated through.
Step 5: Fill the bell peppers with the meat mixture, sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top and set the stuffed peppers upright on a tray. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the peppers turn slightly brown.
Congratulations: You’ve just made stuffed bell peppers from scratch. Garnish the tops with parsley or cilantro, extra Parmesan cheese if desired, and dig in. I like to begin with the filling then eat the pepper as I work my way down, or it can all be cut up. No matter how you eat them, the peppers will act as the plate you can eat.
Did you try this recipe? How did it turn out for you? Or, if you have your own tips for fabulous stuffed peppers, feel free to share them in the comments below!