Now that fall is official, comfort food is making a return to my kitchen.
One of my family's chilly weather favorites is stuffed peppers. My husband likes the dish because it's warm and filling. I like it because I don't have to be boxed in by any one recipe.
Peppers taste just as good filled with a savory mix of ground beef and cheese as they do with spicy or sweet sausage, tuna, grains, or just vegetables. It's the ultimate clear-your-fridge-or-pantry dish.
In this recipe, I pair sweet Italian sausage with brown rice, grated Parmesan, tomatoes and Italian spices for the filling, and cook them in a roasted tomato sauce. The peppers can either be cut in half horizontally and filled or lopped off the top vertically and be stuffed.
Some cooks (me included) like to parboil the peppers before stuffing them to cut down on the cooking time while others choose to prebake the peppers for around 20 minutes. It's perfectly fine to simply pop the peppers into a hot oven; they’ll just take a little longer to bake.
I simmered my peppers in hot water for about five minutes to soften the shells slightly.
Leftover filling can be stirred into tomato soup, and you’ll have a whole new dish.
CHEESY SAUSAGE AND RICE STUFFED PEPPERS
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce, divided
6 large green bell peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 yellow onion, chopped (1/3 cup)
1 cup cooked white or brown rice
1 cup fresh diced tomatoes or 14-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Pinch of crushed pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Chopped parsley, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Pour 1 cup of the tomato sauce into a casserole dish.
Slice off the tops of the bell peppers, then remove the membranes and seeds and discard. Arrange empty peppers standing up in prepared casserole dish. Alternatively, slice peppers lengthwise, remove membranes and seeds, and place on their sides in a casserole dish.
Add the oil to a large skillet, and heat over medium heat. Add the sausage, and cook until browned, 8 to 10 minutes, breaking the meat up into small pieces. Add the garlic and onion, and cook until softened, another 2 minutes. Stir in the cooked rice and tomatoes, and stir to combine. Add the oregano, thyme and pepper flakes, along with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the Parmesan.
Spoon sausage mixture into bell peppers, and top with shredded mozzarella cheese. Drizzle remaining 1/2 cup tomato sauce on top.
Cover tightly with foil. Bake 20 minutes. Uncover, and bake about 20 minutes longer or until peppers are fork tender. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and serve immediately.