Stuffed Peppers: Sharing Grandma's hearty recipe

Stuffed Peppers: Sharing Grandma's hearty recipe

These peppers are an homage to my first and greatest cooking instructor, Grandma Lucille. Long before I could even reach the stove, Grandma was the one who taught me to taste as you’re cooking. She would pull the pasta out of the boiling water when it was still al dente, so I could test it with my teeth. Though technically not my grandma, per se, she shared all her cooking love with me. Today, with her family’s permission, one of her most epic recipes is being shared, as well.

Some people put rice in their stuffed peppers. Or raisins. Grandma didn’t have time for that nonsense and basically stuffed her peppers with a giant meatball. Garlicky and dense, the filling is a lovely complement to the sweet pepper that houses it. A light tomato sauce for the braise gets infused with the flavors of the cheese and meat. This dish is best served with pasta, or even better, just a loaf of crusty Italian bread to sop up all the juice.

A note about the peppers: opt for bell peppers that are small, no larger than your fist, and sturdy. Peppers that are past their prime won’t hold up to the abuse of being stuffed and simmered. Green peppers are fine, but I find the mellow flavor of red or orange peppers are best here. Also, I used a ‘meatloaf mix,’ which is equal parts ground beef, pork, and veal, but any combo of ground meats would be fine.

Grandma’s Stuffed Peppers
For the peppers:
5 – 6 sturdy bell peppers
1 3/4 pounds meatloaf mix
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons olive oil

For the sauce:
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup diced onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 cups crushed tomatoes
water, as needed

1.  Use a small serrated knife to carefully cut a three-inch-wide hole in the top of each pepper. Dig out the stem, seeds, and the ribs, and discard.

2.  Place the meat in a large bowl and use a fork to break it up. Add the garlic, salt, breadcrumbs, cheese, and egg to the bowl. Mix well.

3.  Taking great care not to tear the peppers, stuff the meat mixture into each pepper, all the way to the top.

4.  Place a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil to the pan and place the peppers, meat side down, into the pot. Let the meat brown for about five minutes, then carefully push the peppers aside.

5.  For the sauce, add the onions and garlic to the pan, and sprinkle with the remaining salt. Cook for five minutes, or so, until the onions are translucent. Add the crushed tomatoes and a bit of water swooshed around in the tomato cans, so you get every bit of tomatoey goodness. The peppers do not need to be totally submerged in the sauce.

6.  Scoot the peppers around in the pot so that they are meat side down and evenly distributed. Bring the sauce to a bare simmer, cover, and cook for thirty to forty minutes, or until the peppers are tender, and the meat is cooked through.

This recipe will yield five stuffed peppers.

NORA MARTÍNEZ DEBENEDETTO may be reached at noradebe42@gmail.com. Comment at nj.com/jjournal/thedish.

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Published at Mon, 24 Oct 2016 19:05:00 +0000