For our family stuffed bell peppers is one of those classic comfort food dishes. It is fragrant, delicious, filling, easy to make, a real crowd pleaser and is perfect for both family meals and entertaining.
You have to love a recipe where you get your meat, vegetables, and starch all in one delicious, package.
I rarely make them exactly the same way. I use different set of herbs and seasoning depending on what strikes my fancy looking through the spice cabinet, what kind of meat I have or just want to make a meatless version. I like to use red and yellow bell peppers because they are sweeter then green ones; use the type you like best. This filling is great stuffed in cabbage or grape leaves, in zucchini or eggplants.
I cut the peppers in half lengthwise, so the filling ratio is much more and they cook evenly. The only request I have is, never put eggs, breadcrumbs and cooked rice, this filling isn’t a meatloaf. A very flavorful tomato sauce, the best meat, a lot of vegetables and fresh herbs will make this dish irresistible. In this recipe I used beef and lamb, kind-of a Greek-Style version and thought that a combination of mint and dill will work perfect; it really does. —Kukla
6 (2 per portion) or 12 if serving with a side dish
For the Tomato Sauce (makes 4 1/2 to 5 cups)
• 1/4 cup olive oil, I used Kalamata olive oil
• 1 large Spanish or yellow onion, diced
• 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
• 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
• 1 medium carrot, shredded
• 1 medium parsley root or parsnip, shredded
• 2 celery ribs, diced
• 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes and their juice
• 1/4 cup red wine vinegar + 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
• 3 tablespoons of each, chopped fresh mint leaves and dill or parsley and dill
For the filling
• 1 pound beef chuck, ground
• 1 pound lamb shoulder, ground
• 1/2 cup uncooked white long grain rice
• 1 medium roughly chopped Spanish or yellow onion
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped
• 6 large red or any color you like bell peppers, washed, cut in half lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed
To make the sauce: heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onions and garlic, salt and red pepper flakes; cook over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until translucent. Add carrot, parsley root or parsnip and celery; cook for a few more minutes, until they are quite soft.
Add tomatoes, vinegar and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring often; then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Of the heat mix-in mint and dill. Set aside. This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 2 months in the freezer.
For the filling
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
To prepare the filling: Place rice in a small bowl and cover with boiling water; cool to room temperature and then drain well but do not wash. Cut the meat in 1-inch cubes and run it through a meat grinder together with the chopped onion to a large bowl. Combine the ground meat and onion mixture, the drained rice, salt, black pepper, mint and 1 heaping cup of the tomato sauce; mix well.
To assemble: In the bottom of a 12-inch in diameter/2 1/2-inches deep cast iron skillet or a large casserole dish, place a few celery ribs so they cover the bottom of the dish. This step will prevent the peppers from sticking or burning. Then spread about 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce; fill the bell pepper halves with about 1/2 cup of the filling and lay them out in one layer on top. Evenly cover with the remaining sauce. Cover the dish tightly with a lid or with parchment and foil; place on a rimed baking sheet and transfer to the oven.
Bake for 1 hour or until the meat is cooked and the rice is tender. Serve hot, topped with as much sauce as you like. It is also very tasty to crumble some good feta over the top or like most people in Eastern Europe, with a dollop of sour cream or a Greek yogurt with mint, lemon zest, salt and freshly ground black pepper sauce.