Sunday, January 9, 2011

Italian Stuffed Bell Peppers

This is one of my husband's favorite recipes.  I came up with this recipe when I had a craving for stuffed peppers.  Most recipes I've seen use white rice, ground hamburger, and tomato sauce.  My husband is NOT a fan of white rice in savory recipes.  He's accustomed to rice being served with sugar and raisins... what's up with that?  My husband IS a big fan of Italian food so I came up with this Italian-inspired stuffed pepper recipe filled with Italian ingredients and flavors.  When I started making this dish several years ago, I was in the habit of making and freezing homemade tomato marinara sauce.  I had watched Tyler Florence (he's a cutie pie) on the Food Network make homemade tomato marinara sauce and he used it a gazillion different recipes (cutie pie and smart!).  I got out of the habit of making the sauce myself because we discovered that we love Bertolli Brand Organic Tomato and Basil Sauce just as much or more as the homemade sauce (sorry Tyler!).  I use the jarred sauce in EVERYTHING... pizza, manicotti, stuffed shells, spaghetti and meatballs, stromboli, stuffed bell peppers... can you tell my husband is a huge fan of Italian food?

I tried to enter this recipe in a few contests and came up with a some clever names for this dish... Peter Piper's Peppers Packed with Pasta, Pork, Provolone, and Parmasean... something like that. No wonder I never won a contest with this recipe... I am such a DORK!  I made th is dish at my husband's request yesterday... he gobbled up a ton of them. That is why I make such a big recipe, but you could easily cut this recipe in half.  As for me, I had Zuppa Toscana for dinner (see prior post).

Italian Stuffed Bell Peppers

6 medium-sized bell peppers (any color will do but we especially like the red)
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound ground pork
1/2 of a medium sized red or yellow onion, diced (you can leave out the onion if you like)
2 cups ditalini (small tube) pasta, uncooked
5 cups jarred tomato pasta sauce( I use 2 jars Bertolli Brand Organic Tomato Basil Sauce which comes in 24 ounce jars... I used all of the 1st jar & 2 of the 3 cups in the 2nd jar) 
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 slices provolone cheese 
1/4 to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 teaspoons Italian seasoned bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut peppers in half lengthwise and remove stems, seeds, and membranes. Bring a large pot of water up to a boil. Carefully slip half of the pepper halves into the boiling water; cook for 3 minutes and remove pepper halves with kitchen tongs. Repeat with second half of the pepper halves.  Sprinkle a pinch of salt in each pepper half.  Place pepper halves (cut side down) on paper towels, clean dish towel, or in a kitchen strainer, and allow peppers to drain.
In the same water used to cook the peppers, cook the pasta (according to the package directions) until al dente. Drain cooked pasta; set aside.
Meanwhile, in a larger-sized, non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground pork and onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender (approximately 3 to 5 minutes). Add the tomato basil sauce and the next five ingredients to the skillet; stir to combine. Cover the skillet with a lid and bring the sauce up to a boil. Remove the sauce from the heat; add the drained cooked pasta and the Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine; cover and set aside.
Place the drained pepper halves, cut side up, into two ceramic or glass baking dishes (NOTE: one 9"x13"x2" pan and one 8"x8"x2" pan works well). Line the bottom of each pepper half with ½ slice of provolone cheese. Mound the pasta mixture into the pepper halves on top of the sliced cheese. Sprinkle each pepper half with approximately ½ teaspoon of the seasoned bread crumbs. Bake the stuffed peppers uncovered for 15 to 18 minutes or until the bread crumbs begin brown lightly and the pasta sauce bubbles.


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