This is not for those people who wouldn’t let their foods touch when they were young. I was not one of those kids. I very enthusiastically dropped peas into my mashed potatoes, crushed chips into sandwiches, and put gravy on EVERYTHING. This is kind of like that, but more presentable, and with a recipe. These are ruhl good and totally riffable. Instead of sausage (but why tho?) try shredded chicken, or diced ham. Want to go meatless? Tofu, any canned bean, or just a variety of chopped sauteed veggies are all excellent choices. The cheese can be whatever you have and the seasonings are endlessly variable. Change the rice to quinoa or farro or orzo if you wish. You could even make it vegan if you swap out the flour/milk/cheese part for a mixture of hummus and vegetable broth, or some cashew cream.
The only part of this recipe, and for most recipes really, that is non-negotiable is tasting. Please please please please PUHleeeeeze taste your food. Because you are a beautifully unique creature whose palate and proclivities are all your own. Maybe you hate spicy food. Or maybe what’s bland to others is perfectly seasoned to you. Taste is a subjective thing. Even though we judge it on TV as though it’s a hard and fast rule, taste is completely personal – and if you’re cooking for YOU, make sure you season to YOUR taste. Secondly, sometimes something can look amazing. Like you are literally drooling over it, and then you sit down to eat and your first bite = bland city. Don’t let that happen to you. Just taste it, just to be sure. Plus sneaking a taste, or two or seven is a well-deserved perk of cooking.
Sausage and Rice Stuffed Peppers
Servings: 4-6 Time: 1 HR (WITH SOME MULTI-TASKING)
You can tailor this recipe to your liking – different proteins, veggies, starches, etc. Just make sure to taste it along the way, and you’ll be good to go. The nice thing about this recipe is that the rice is cooked prior to stuffing the peppers, so really the last 20 minutes in the oven is just to heat everything through. You could just as easily fill the peppers with the hot filling and top with the breadcrumbs and skip the entire last step. I like to break this recipe up – soften the peppers, and make the rice and filling the day before; then assemble and bake the next evening – hence the 20 minutes of baking time to heat everything through.
1 cup uncooked rice (or if using leftover, 2 cups cooked)
3 or 4 bell peppers halved lengthwise (depending on size)
salt and pepper
¼ cup water
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup plus 2 tbsp grated cheese (whatever you’ve got is fine. I used some leftover brie, and a parmesan-asiago blend)
½ cup plus 2 tbsp chopped, fresh herbs (I used basil and parsley, but feel free to substitute what you have on hand)
3 links of sweet or hot Italian sausage, removed from casings
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp red chili flakes
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 tbsp flour
¾ cup milk
zest and juice of a lemon
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 350° F. Place peppers, cut side up in a shallow baking dish. Season with salt and pepper and pour the ¼ cup of water into the pan. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil or a tight fitting lid. Bake for 20 minutes, or until peppers begin to soften.
Cook rice. I rinse mine until the water runs clear, then sauté with a tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Then add 1 ¾ cup water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a bare simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Check for doneness, and then cover pot with a clean kitchen towel and the lid and let steam, off heat for 10 minutes. Set aside.
Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add breadcrumbs and stir to combine. Stir breadcrumbs often, keeping a close eye on them, until they are golden brown. Scrape into a bowl and combine with 2 tablespoons herbs and 2 tablespoons grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
In the same skillet brown the sausage in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Use the back of your spoon to break it into small pieces. Remove browned sausage to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.
Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, onion, garlic, chili flake, and zucchini to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables begin to brown – about 10 minutes.
Sprinkle with flour and stir for 2-3 minutes. Add milk and whisk to combine, making sure to whisk out any lumps. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Add 1 cup cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, mustard, ½ cup herbs, and reserved sausage. Stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
In a large bowl, combine rice with sausage/veggie mixture. Stuff mixture into peppers, be generous. Top each pepper with breadcrumb mixture.
Bake, uncovered for 20 minutes.