I love when I come across a twist on an old family favorite. I also love when I make it and it ends up being really good, and thus, a new family favorite. This, happily enough, was one of those times.
My husband had mentioned last week that we hadn’t had stuffed peppers in a while, which is a less than subtle hint to me that he’d really appreciate having them for dinner one night. I got to thinking about it and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d made stuffed peppers. I think it might have been before our girls were born, which means he was more than right…it had been a long while. It had been so long that I couldn’t remember where the recipe was that I had last used! That led me on a search for a new stuffed pepper recipe to try.
I ran across this recipe in Giada De Laurentiis’ book Giada’s Kitchen. I was immediately drawn to it for a few reasons. I’ve resolved, like a lot of people, to get back into a healthier routine after a busy month of holiday food, so this lightened up, veggie filled recipe seemed like a good one to try. Also, there was no ground beef involved and, since my girls have a strange unchildlike aversion to ground beef, that seemed to work in my favor as well. And, finally, I’ve never made anything of Giada’s that I haven’t really enjoyed. So I thought I’d give it a try!
I started by prepping the peppers. I chose six multicolored peppers, sliced off the tops, cleaned out the middles and sliced a thin bit off of the bottom so they’d sit up nicely in a baking dish.
Next, I grated two and a half small zucchini which would add some almost secretive veggie bulk to my pepper filling.
The zucchini went into a large bowl with some canned, whole tomatoes that I’d chopped up, grated Romano cheese, garlic, olive oil and fresh basil. The original recipe called for fresh mint, but the basil looked better at the store than the mint did and I just thought it might suit our tastes more, so I used basil instead.
This made up the base for the pepper filling and all I needed to do was add the orzo. I cooked the orzo for about four minutes in a few cups of chicken broth. When I drained the orzo, I kept the heated broth to pour in around the peppers in the baking dish.
I mixed the half-cooked orzo in with my other filling ingredients, stuffed the peppers, poured the broth in the dish, covered it tightly with foil and popped them in the oven. (In all honesty, there was enough of the filling left to fill two more peppers, I just didn’t have any more!)
After 45 minutes, I removed the foil and sprinkled just a bit of grated Romano cheese on top of each pepper. Then, they went back into the oven to bake for 15 minutes more.
The house smelled like a warm, Italian restaurant and we were able to enjoy a wonderful family meal together along with a good friend. The filling was delicious and packed with so much flavor that I think we were all surprised. The peppers cooked up beautifully, cooked yet still crisp, and not mushy at all despite their hour in the oven. If you’re still feeling like you really need some meat in there, go ahead and add it! I’m sure it would be delicious! We tossed around the ideas of adding chicken or Italian sausage as we gobbled these up last night.
My husband’s pepper craving was tackled and we liked this enough that I’m pretty sure it won’t be another nine+ years before I make stuffed peppers for dinner again!
ORZO STUFFED PEPPERS
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
- 1 (28 oz.) can whole Italian tomatoes
- 2 medium zucchini, grated
- ½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
- ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus a little more for sprinkling on top
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1½ cups orzo pasta (rice shaped pasta)
- 6-8 sweet, bell peppers
- Preheat the oven to 400*.
- Prepare the peppers. Slice the tops off of each pepper and remove all of the ribs and seeds. Cut a very thin slice off of the bottom of each pepper, so it can stand up properly in the baking dish. Be careful not to cut through to the middle! Place the peppers, side by side, in a 3-quart baking dish.
- Pour the tomatoes, and all of their juices, into a large bowl. Using your hands, or a pair of kitchen shears, break them up into smaller pieces. Add the grated zucchini, basil, cheese, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil over medium heat. Add the orzo and cook for 4 minutes. Drain the orzo, but reserve the chicken broth. Stir the orzo into the tomato-zucchini mixture.
- Spoon the orzo mixture into each pepper. Pour the warm chicken broth into the dish, around the peppers. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle each pepper with a little more Romano cheese, and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Remove them from the oven and carefully transfer the peppers to the serving plates, garnishing with fresh basil, if desired. Serves 6-8