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Author Notes: My cooking mentor and former mother-in-law, Haya, would make a different version of this classic recipe every time she prepared it. She used long grain rice, but I prefer using Arborio ever since I tasted a version prepared by a good friend who owns an Italian restaurant. But, I credit Haya with teaching me how to make this crowd pleaser, as I credit her with teaching me how to buy the best produce at open air markets, introducing me to Mediterranean cooking, and creating dishes around what is fresh and in season.
These stuffed peppers are best when made a day ahead of serving. Leftovers freeze well, and it is always a pleasant reminder of an afternoon's labor to pull out a few frozen servings of this dish on a cold winter's night. Haya did not place mozzarella balls in her version - that is also a tip I learned from my chef friend. - Bevi
- 6 or more whole red peppers, or any color of your choice
- For the Meat Filling
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 cup Arborio rice, uncooked
- 1/2 cup grated carrot
- 1/2 cup grated zucchini
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 plus cups parmesan cheese
- 6 mini buffalo mozzarella balls, packed in herbed olive oil; OR 6 chunks of mozzarella, formed into 1 inch balls
- Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
- For the Tomato Sauce
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste, with more to add if the sauce needs thickening at the end of cooking
- 1 large can diced tomatoes
- 2 cups red wine
- 1 cup stock or water
- several sprigs thyme, and other herbs of choice
- 1 or 2 tablespoons sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F.
- Start the tomato sauce. Pour the olive oil in a large Dutch oven pot over medium flame. Add the onions, then the garlic, then the carrots, and then the celery and saute until the onion is translucent.
- Add the tomato paste and stir in fully to blend. Then, add the diced tomatoes, and again stir until blended. Then, add the wine and cook for a few minutes. Then, add the stock or water. Add fresh herbs of your choice, and cook the sauce over low heat. After a while, add the sugar. Let the sauce simmer while you prepare the filling for the red bell peppers.
- Begin the meat filling. Place all the filling ingredients (note: about 3/4 cup parmesan) EXCEPT the mozzarella balls into a glass bowl, and carefully mix the ingredients so they are well blended.
- Slice the tops off the peppers, and remove all seeds. Place the filling in the peppers, but make a hole in the filling you have put in the pepper with your finger so you can insert a mozzarella ball in the center of the pepper as you stuff it.
- If the tomato sauce looks like it is somewhat firm and reduced, place the stuffed peppers in the Dutch oven. You may fit them in snugly. Liberally spoon some tomato sauce on and over each stuffed pepper.
- Bring to a low boil, cover, and then place the Dutch oven into the oven to bake for at least an hour. Baste the peppers continuously so the arborio rice absorbs liquid.
- Test for doneness by taking a tiny taste of rice in one pepper. If the rice is done, place a little parmesan cheese over each pepper, and return to the oven until the cheese is melted. Test the sauce for desired thickness - adding more tomato paste to stir if necessary.
- Serve by slicing each pepper in half, topped with some sauce. Note: One pepper is a very hearty serving.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Family Recipe, Part 2
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best One-Pot Meal
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Red Pepper Recipe