Stuffed peppers are loaded with flavor! They're delicious, easy to make and you can modify the recipe as much as you like! If you have fresh basil for the recipe - it really elevates the flavor! I am slowly starting to buy more stuff from the organic store nearby - and I notice a big difference especially in the quality of the meat. I hope you enjoy this meal - it is very filling. And even though my son doesn't like to eat the actual pepper, this is still one of his favorite meals! It's also good to serve this with a little garlic bread.
Step 1: Ingredients for Basil Stuffed Peppers
- 4-6 large bell peppers (any color - but I prefer red)
- 1 pound of ground beef
- 1/4 cup of chopped onion
- 1 cup of cooked rice
- salt & pepper - use according to taste preferences
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese
- 1 small to medium tomato - chopped
- one cup of spaghetti or marinara sauce
- fresh basil
- glass baking dish
- * optional: cayenne pepper, garlic powder & Italian seasoning - extra seasoning is optional and I added these after taste-testing and wanted more flavor
With these ingredients, you should be able to make at least 4-6 large servings of stuffed peppers. If you notice in my photos, I only had 3 peppers (so I ended up having leftover filling) because one of my peppers was old and I had to get rid of it. Please note that one large pepper, with the filling, is a hefty serving for one person. So, for kids and those who don't need to eat that much, you could cut the pepper in half lengthwise as I did and you can see it in some of my pictures. It's up to you!
Step 2: Chopping & Preparing the Peppers
Heat your oven to 375 degrees F.
First, slice the stem off of the top of the peppers and clean out the inside of the peppers. Remove the seeds and rinse the peppers. After I cut off the stems, I then take the stems and slice the excess pepper off of the stem and chop it up real small. I chop up about 1/4 cup of the peppers and use that with the filling later. At this time, you can also chop up the onion, tomato & garlic and cook the rice if you haven't done so yet.
If you have a square or rectangular glass baking dish, place your peppers in the dish and place in the oven. You'll want the peppers to soften up while in the oven, but not cook so much that they're wilted or too soft and pliable. You'll have to keep an eye on it - as it can take 10-20 minutes for it to be just right. You'll be putting it back in the oven after they're stuffed - so you don't want to overcook them right now - just soften them up a little bit.
After you take the peppers out, you'll notice liquid on the inside of the peppers - leave it there! It is loaded with flavor! A lot of recipes call for boiling the peppers for 5 minutes to soften them - but doing that will cause them to lose all that flavor! I must admit I've done it - but only because my oven is broken and the only thing working on it is the broiler. If you want to boil them to soften them up - it's your choice - but I think the flavor is much better with the oven method of softening them.
Now that you're done softening the peppers, you can set them aside. I like to use my Italian seasoning at this time - by grinding the seasoning right into the peppers.
Step 3: The Filling
Now you'll need a skillet and you'll want to set the temperature on your stove to medium heat. Right before adding your veggies, you'll want to throw in a tab of butter and a little olive oil - just to coat the bottom of the pan. Then, throw in your onions, the little chunks of sliced peppers and the garlic. Let that cook for a few minutes and soften up a little bit.
Don't add the chopped tomato or basil until later - near the end of the cooking.
Step 4: Cooking the Stuffed Pepper Meat
Now add the ground beef to the skillet and let it cook - stirring occasionally until it is cooked through. Then, drain off the excess oil. If you have some aluminum foil, you can make shape it into a little square and pour the oil into it. I do that and also place the square foil thing in a grocery bag so I can easily toss it later. My mom taught me that trick and it's a good way to get rid of the oil!
Once you've drained the oil, then return the skillet to the stove. You can turn the heat down low now too. Now add 1 cup of spaghetti sauce, 1 cup of cooked rice and the chopped tomatoes. Stir this mixture well and then taste it!
If you want to add more flavor, now is the time to do so. I added extra garlic powder, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Once things are mixed well, you can then add the cheese - 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup. Finally, after all is mixed then you can add the fresh basil and turn off the heat!
Step 5: Fill the Peppers and Return to Oven
Now it's time to fill the peppers and return them to the oven! I used about 3/4 of a cup of filling for the large peppers. I then added cheese on top - and a little Italian seasoning again. I then covered the square dish with aluminum foil and placed it back into the oven for about 15 minutes. I removed the foil and put it back in for another five minutes. You may need to keep it in a few minutes less or longer, depending on how cooked the peppers were and how your oven works!
Now you're done! Time to enjoy the meal!