A classic is something that stands the test of time. A great example is stuffed peppers filled with ground beef and rice and topped with a seasoned tomato sauce. This comforting meal is great for company. No one will ever know this flavorful and hearty dish took about forty minutes to make. It’s a traditional favorite in many homes, and it is extremely versatile. There are about as many variations as families. Let’s look at several of them.
Originally the recipe used green peppers, but these days you can use any color you like. Buy a variety pack of peppers and see if you like one color more than another. They are all from the same plant starting as green and maturing all the way to red. Red peppers are the sweetest, followed by orange then yellow, then ending on green. Green has a more zesty taste which complements the beef and tomatoes. All the bell peppers have similar mild heat. You can use lean ground beef or ground turkey and know it will be flavorful with the tomato sauce and seasonings. For vegetarian friends, try substituting mushrooms for the meat.
I like brown rice, but you can use the traditional white rice, quinoa, barley, or bulgur. For those who are avoiding grain, try it with cauliflower rice. This dish is another example of making the most of leftovers. Have left over cooked rice, quinoa, or other grains? Have some spaghetti sauce left over? Add these to your ground meat and make a special stuffed pepper for an inexpensive and hearty meal.
Have you tried pre-cooking your bell peppers? Some folks only eat this dish with a pre-cooked pepper for a softer bite. Others love the pepper straight in the oven with the filling. This extra step shortens the overall cooking time of the stuffed peppers and ensures that the filling doesn’t overcook. While I’m making the filling, I pre-cook my bell peppers in a baking dish with a little water on the bottom of the pan in a pre-heated oven. I also cover the baking dish in aluminum foil to keep in the steam, which helps the bell peppers cook.
Many recipes call for canned tomatoes but I like the fast addition of a good tomato sauce. I like a little extra on top of the pepper. Some variations involve filling the bottom of the baking dish with tomato sauce. And a large group of recipes add grated cheese to the top of the pepper, and a few add it to the filling.
Seasonings traditionally have been Italian, but there are several versions with Mexican seasonings and Pepper Jack cheese. Last, but not least is the pepper top. Some cooks like to bake the peppers with the top on. Others discard the top or cut it up and add it to the filling. Basically you can re-invent the stuffed pepper with whatever you like or have in the fridge.
Classic Stuffed Peppers
Use organic when available, serves 6
Classic Stuffed Peppers
- 2 green bell peppers
- 2 red bell peppers
- 2 yellow bell peppers
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 2 clove garlic minced
- 1 onion chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tbsp fresh basil
- 1 tbsp fresh oregano
- 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
- 1 cup cooked brown rice (white rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice)
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 tsp optional crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese or cheese of choice
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Cut off top of peppers and set aside
- Cut thin slice from bottom to keep upright
- Remove ribs and seeds with spoon
- Rinse out peppers and lightly salt inside
- Place peppers in baking dish with cut side up and water in bottom
- Cover with aluminum foil
- Bake for about 10 minutes
- While pre-cooking the peppers, combine beef, garlic, and onion in skillet
- Cook over medium heat until beef is browned
- Drain any fat
- Remove peppers from oven and drain water
- In bowl, mix beef, rice, parsley, basil, oregano, half a can of tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper
- Spoon mixture evenly into peppers
- Spoon the rest of the tomato sauce on top of peppers
- Bake for 30 minutes
- Sprinkle grated cheese on top before last 5 minutes of baking or when pull from oven
- Serve hot with salad and baked potato
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