Sicilian Stuffed Peppers
Stuffed peppers have become one of my favorite meals. I love to change up the filling every time for something fun. And I really love that you can prep this ahead of time! By making the filling the night before, the flavors from the dried herbs really intensify and make the filling so much better! You can also slice and de-seed the peppers a day before too. Just arrange them in your casserole dish, then cover them with a damp paper towel and a tight layer of Glad Press and Seal (I love generics, but this is a non-negotiable for me. Glad Press and Seal is amazing).
One reason I wanted to do these flavors is because I love fennel and eggplant. But Jon hates eggplant. I am trying to find a way to make him like it. My theory is that by cutting them small and roasting them, he will either not notice them because they’re small or notice them because they’re more flavorful and have a crisper texture than he’s used to. He hates the texture of eggplant. It’s a shame because it’s one of my favorite vegetables of all time. (Post Dinner Follow Up: he liked it.)
I use whole wheat orzo in this because I always try to use whole grain when I can. I got it at Whole Foods, but if you can’t find it, use regular orzo, ditalini, or even rice!
Total Time: 2 hours (Hands-On Time: 45 minutes)
Yield: 8 large stuffed pepper halves
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
1 eggplant, cut into ½ inch dice
Salt and Pepper
2/3 pound whole wheat orzo
20 ounces lean ground turkey
24 ounces tomato sauce
8 ounces softened cream cheese
2 tablespoons dried fennel seeds
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
2 teaspoons onion powder
4 large green bell peppers, cut in half lengthwise, seeds and ribs removed
¾ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
¾ cup seasoned panko breadcrumbs
Fresh basil, for garnish (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. On a half-sized sheet pan, toss the diced eggplant with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 30-35 minutes, tossing once to evenly brown.
- Meanwhile, add plenty of salt and water to a large pot. Bring to a boil. Add the orzo, and cook until slightly underdone (a little less than al dente), about 6-7 minutes.
- While the eggplant and pasta cook, add a little oil to a shallow pan. Brown the ground turkey until thoroughly cooked through, about 20 minutes.
- Once the eggplant, orzo, and turkey are cooked, add them to a large bowl.
- To them, add the tomato sauce, softened cream cheese, dried fennel seeds, oregano, parsley, basil, garlic, and onion powder. Fold the ingredients together gently until thoroughly mixed. Taste, and season with salt and pepper.
- Once the mixture is cool enough to handle, preheat your oven again to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Now you can fill the peppers. Start with a spoon and press the filling into the pepper, filling in all the nooks and crannies. Add a second helping of filling with a ½ cup size scoop. Scoop it on to, and use the palm of your hand to fill the top of the pepper evenly.
- Add the grated parmesan and panko breadcrumbs to a bowl. Use a fork to toss them together.
- Sprinkle the parmesan and panko mixture evenly over all the peppers.
- Cover the peppers with aluminum foil. Tent the top so the cheese doesn’t stick to the foil.
- Bake covered for 50 minutes. Remove the foil, and continue to bake for an additional 20-25 minutes.
- Let the peppers set for 10 minutes before serving.