There are many different types of stuffed peppers, which means you can play with the recipe to make it your own. Not only do you have plenty of choices on kinds of peppers to use, but based on their size the ingredients, you can serve them as an appetizer, a main dish, or even a side dish.
Let’s talk first about the peppers…when using small peppers like piquillo, cherry peppers, jalapeño or baby bell peppers, you can stuff them with seasoned cheese and serve them as an appetizer. Don’t use them raw, however. Either buy them roasted (piquillo peppers often come roasted and in a jar with oil) or roast them yourself in the oven or quickly boil them in water for 2-3 minutes until just tender. Cut off the top, take out the seeds and veins, slice down one side, lengthwise, and stuff the peppers with whatever you wish. One of my favorites is goat cheese with fresh herbs, salt and a little lemon zest in a piquillo pepper. They look beautiful, are about 1 bite, and taste wonderful.
In this recipe, we’re talking about a main course, and are using bell peppers. I also like to stuff poblano or pasilla peppers as well as a main course. Check out the recipe for shrimp and goat cheese stuffed poblano peppers with roasted red pepper sauce…a real crowd pleaser!
The main ingredients of stuffed bell peppers, when served as a main course, are typically ground meat, rice and seasonings. Cheese is sometimes added, depending on the flavor profile you are going for. Typical flavor profiles are Spanish, Greek, Italian, Mexican, our Southwestern, but again, you can do just about anything that sounds good to you. I think Thai and Moroccan could be great flavors, too!
Here is my version of stuffed bell peppers, which serves 4 people using medium sized bell peppers. I highly recommend using a variety of colors (red, orange, yellow, green) to make it even more festive.
4 medium-sized bell peppers
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 lb lean ground beef
1/2 tsp red chili flakes (optional)
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika (preferably smoked paprika)
2 Tbsp fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 small can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp soy sauce
3/4 cup cooked long-grain white or basmati rice
1/3 cup slivered almonds, chopped roughly in half their packaged size, plus extra for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bring a pot of water to boil, with enough water to fully submerge the peppers. While the water is heating, slice off the top of the pepper (reserve the top) and using a paring knife or your fingers, remove the seeds and veins from the pepper. (If they won’t stand up properly, very carefully slice off a small amount off the bottom to make it level.) Chop the tops into small dice, using all but the stem. You should have about 1 cup of chopped pepper, which you will use in making the filling. When the water is boiling, submerge the whole peppers and cook them until just barely tender, 2-3 minutes. Remove and allow to drain and dry on paper towels.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. When hot, add the onions and chopped pepper, and sauté until beginning to brown, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 1 additional minute. Add the ground beef, breaking it up with a spatula and brown until no longer pink. Add the chili flakes (if using), oregano, parsley, paprika and salt and pepper. Mix well. Add the tomato paste and tomato sauce, and again mix well. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium to maintain the simmer. Add the sugar and soy sauce (which just adds umami) and simmer until thick but still juicy, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, and add the cooked rice and the chopped slivered almonds, mixing thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
In a baking dish large enough to hold all 4 peppers, put 1/8″ of water in the bottom. Fill the peppers with a spoon until completely full (even bulging out the top a bit is ok), and place gently and upright in the water in the baking dish. Place in the preheated oven, and cook 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven, and using tongs or a spatula, place a pepper on each plate, and top with slivered almonds to garnish. Serve and enjoy.