Stuffed peppers are a comfort food for Russ. He loved them growing up—me, not so much. However, that all changed somewhere along the line decades ago, and we both now look forward to dining on the one-pot meal. Yes, there is a bit of prep to start with, but once the mild chilies are stuffed, it’s hands off.
Since Russ received Lidia Bastianich’s latest cookbook: Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Great Italian Cook, as a Christmas gift, we’ve been trying out quite a few of her recipes and have not been disappointed—until now. Now don’t get me wrong, the taste of the peppers was spot on, we just didn’t care for the watery sauce that accompanied them; the consistency was more like a broth. Even though you squeeze as much water out of the soaking bread as possible, there is still some residual moisture, plus the peppers themselves will release some more wetness.
So here’s what we would do to remedy our dissatisfaction with the sauce. First, we’d double the amount of canned tomatoes (we like a lot of sauce), then, and most importantly, omit adding any additional water. Next, we’d incorporate some tomato paste to thicken, the amount is up to you but start with two tablespoons and add more to satisfy your preferences. I altered the ingredients list and directions below to reflect our changes.
The whole peeled canned tomatoes are placed in a bowl and crushed by hand.
Because the bell peppers at the store were gigundo, I only used four instead of six, and selected all green ones. But you can use the red, orange and/or yellow bell peppers too, which tend to be a bit sweeter than the green.
Not noted in the directions below, I cooked ours in a 350 degree oven as opposed to heating on a stove burner. The total cooking time was lengthened by 15 minutes to address the size of our peppers. While mashed potatoes are traditionally served with stuffed peppers, we opted to omit them this time and pair them with a side salad.
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 28 oz cans whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 2-4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 5 cups crustless day old bread cubes
- 2 lbs ground pork
- 1 cup freshly grated Grana Padano
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 6 medium bell peppers (any color combination)
- Heat a dutch oven large enough to hold the peppers upright in one layer over medium heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion, and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Spoon about half the onion into a large bowl to cool.
- To the onion in the pot, add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Season with 2 tsp of the oregano, 1 tsp of the salt, and the red pepper flakes.
- Put the bread cubes in a medium bowl with water to cover. Let them soak 5 minutes. Squeeze all of the excess liquid out of the bread, and add the squeezed bread to the cooled onion in the bowl.
- Add the ground pork, grated cheese, eggs, remaining tsp oregano, and remaining tsp salt. Mix with your hands to make a cohesive stuffing.
- Cut the tops from the peppers, remove the seeds and ribs and divide the stuffing among them. Nestle the peppers in the sauce, cover and simmer until the filling is cooked through and the peppers are tender, about 1 hour.
- Place each pepper in a shallow bowl, slice in half, and serve topped with sauce. Sprinkle with additional grated cheese if desired.