Bell peppers are really such a beautiful and versatile vegetable. We eat them sliced for snacks, in salads, grilled, sautéed, stir fried...you name it. And this time, we decided to eat them STUFFED with a delicious meat- veggie-pasta-cheese mixture.
Stuffed bell peppers is definitely not a new recipe concept. It's a pretty classic dish. But there are a few things we did differently with this dish that are worth pointing out.
TINY PASTA INSTEAD OF RICE
In the past, we have made stuffed bell peppers with rice. This time, we decided to use a small pasta called acini di pepe. Orzo pasta would also have been a great option. We also cooked the pasta in beef broth instead of water to give it some added flavor. Overall, we thought using the pasta gave the stuffed peppers a softer and juicier taste than our rice version. And the pasta was a bigger hit with the kids!
BOILING/BROILING INSTEAD OF BAKING
Typically, stuffed bell peppers are baked in the oven for about 30 minutes. But, since our timeframe is always 28 minutes, we opted to change things up. We boiled the peppers in hot water while we prepared the stuffing. Once we stuffed the peppers, we simply broiled them in the oven for about 5 minutes. This boiling/broiling combo really did pull off the same outcome as baking: tender, bubbly, stuffed pepper yumminess!
This dish is highly customizable. While we used ground beef, families can choose whatever meat they'd like. Ground turkey or chorizo would be so good. If you're a vegetarian family, you can omit the meat completely and replace with pea protein crumbles, soy meat substitute, or just add extra veggies. We preferred using small pasta, but any other rice or grain can be used in the stuffing (quinoa, barley, etc). And finally, while parmesan cheese was our choice cheese, mozzarella cheese is another great option for this dish.
My sister decided to top her bell peppers with some fresh herbs from her garden. She gave her kids the option between oregano, tarragon, rosemary, and chives. It was a cool experience to have her kids snip the herbs fresh out of the ground and put them on their food. They also loved using their fave kids snippers from Kuhn Rikon.
🌈 KIDIFY THE MEAL 🌈
🍅Set aside some plain pasta! No matter what I make and how much they like it, my kids always want some plain pasta too.
🍅Customize veggies! Our peppers' stuffing included onion, garlic and crushed tomatoes, but you can add or swap any other veggie of choice! Corn, mushrooms, and peas would be delicious.
🍅Eat the stuffing by itself!
🍅Don't cook all your peppers! Some kids may prefer raw peppers over cooked. You can slice up a separate pepper for the kids to eat on the side.
🍴 MODIFY THE MEAL🍴
🍅Make it Gluten Free! The only ingredient in this dish that contains gluten for sure is the pasta. You can remedy this very easily. Just replace the orzo with rice. Minute rice would be the fastest to cook. Also, make sure the broth you're using doesn't contain traces of gluten. The Better than Bouillon brand is my favorite, but it makes no claims to be gluten-free. You can easily find many veggie broth/stock that are definitely gluten free. Vogue Cuisine's bases are really similar to Better than Bouillon's, and they're gluten free.
🍅Make it Vegetarian! Replace the beef with pea protein crumbles. I'm a huge fan of Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles. I've used them for years to make vegetarian chili and they are soooo delicious. I'm definitely a meat eater and I can't tell the difference. Worth noting is that these crumbles are high in protein and also gluten-free. And don't forget to swap our your beef broth for a veggie broth. Better than Bouillon makes several different kinds of broth, and it's my fave.
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Stuffed Bell Peppers with Beefy, Cheesy Yumminess
- 4 cups beef broth
- 1/2-2/3 cup acini di pepe (or another small pasta, like orzo)
- 4 bell peppers (any colors)
- 3-4 T salt
- cooking spray
- 1 T olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion (chopped)
- 1 clove garlic (minced)
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (shredded, plus extra for sprinkling on top of peppers)
- fresh herbs (optional, i.e. rosemary, oregano, chives, tarragon)
- Bring 4 cups of beef broth to a boil. Cook orzo in broth according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, fill a large pot with water, add salt, and bring to a boil. Cut tops off bell peppers and de-seed. Place peppers in boiling water for 5-6 mins, turning occasionally. Remove peppers from water. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray and place peppers into dish.
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onion & garlic, and cook for 3-5 mins. Then add beef and cook until no longer pink (5-7 mins). Stir frequently, breaking up the meat chunks as you go. Stir in crushed tomatoes, cheese and cooked orzo. Stir together over heat for 1 minute. Spoon the beef mix into peppers, dividing it evenly, and sprinkle with a pinch of extra cheese.
- Set oven to broil. Once heated up, place casserole dish in the oven for 4-6 mins or until cheese is golden brown and bubbly.
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