Stuffed Peppers: A Recipe from Peggy Rayzis, a La Cucina di Poppiti Graduate

As one of Susan’s first AP Calculus students, I was also a member of the inaugural Lunch & Lit program in the summer of 2009. Before stepping foot into Susan’s kitchen, I was well-versed in Philadelphia’s vibrant restaurant scene; however, my culinary “talents” barely extended beyond boiling water for pasta and scrambling an egg. With an enormous amount of patience, Susan guided our class through many milestones – our first bolognese sauce, tomato tart, and even a Moroccan tagine. My confidence in the kitchen quickly grew as I learned how to flip a crepe, prepare a cheese plate, and make homemade gnocchi with ease. By the end of the summer, I was fully equipped with the skills I needed to start cooking independently in college.

Throughout my years at Penn, I maintained my commitment to home-cooked meals with the help of my friend Alex, who was also fed up with the lack of fresh and healthy food on campus. I was also fortunate enough to travel with Susan to the south of France, where I added more advanced skills to my repertoire such as braising a rabbit and preparing a whole daurade.

Now, four years after my first lessons at Cucina di Poppiti, I am completely comfortable in the kitchen. Even in New York City, where takeout is the norm, I continue to cook all my meals myself. Here’s a recipe I tried recently that my friends and I thought was out of this world – I hope you enjoy it!

Risotto Stuffed Italian Peppers, adapted from Linda’s Italian Table

Ingredients for Marinara Sauce:

– 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

– 2 tbsp olive oil

– 2 cans (28 oz each) of San Marzano peeled whole tomatoes –

– 1 cup chopped basil

– 1/4 cup oregano (I used dry because I didn’t have fresh, but you could also use fresh)

– 2/3 cups chopped Italian parsley

– 1 tbsp white sugar (cuts down on the acidity of the sauce)

– Salt and pepper to taste

– Dash of red pepper flakes

1. Put the tomatoes in a blender and quickly give them a spin until they are broken up.

2. In a large pot, saute the garlic in olive oil at medium heat until the garlic is fragrant (about 2 mins). Do not burn the garlic!

3. Add the tomatoes, fresh herbs, sugar, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 mins-1 hr.

Ingredients for Stuffing:

– 4 large bell peppers (I use a combination of red, yellow, and orange)

– 2 tbsp olive oil

– 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

– 1 medium yellow onion, diced

– 1 red bell pepper, diced for the stuffing

– 3 links of pork sausage removed from the casing (I used a combo of hot Italian sausage and mild Italian sausage)

– 1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley

– 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

– 2 cups Italian breadcrumbs (I make my own, recipe included below)

– 2 1/2 cups cooked plain risotto (I follow the instructions on the box, using chicken broth and adding 1 clove of chopped garlic and 1 cup of parmesan cheese with a sprinkle of black pepper. You want the risotto to be bland so it does not overpower the dish.)

– 1/4 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese

– 1/4 cup tiny capers, drained and rinsed

– 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt

– Dash of freshly ground black pepper

– 2 eggs

– Any type of pasta to serve with the peppers (I used farfalle)

Ingredients for Homemade Bread Crumbs:

– 6 hamburger rolls

– 1/2 cup Romano or Parmesan cheese (either works fine)

– 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

– 2 tbsp salt

– 1 tbsp garlic powder

1. Use a food processor or blender to break up the hamburger rolls into very small crumbs. Make sure there are no large chunks!

2. Add the cheese, parsley, salt, and garlic powder. Mix together thoroughly.

3. The breadcrumbs can also be frozen for later use. I like to make chicken cutlets, vegetable side dishes, or eggplant parmesan with these breadcrumbs.

Peppers

Putting It All Together:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice off the tops of the large peppers, do not throw them away. Chop up the meat from the tops of the peppers and reserve for the stuffing. Remove the seeds and the membranes from the peppers. Set aside the peppers.

2. Saute the garlic, onion, chopped up pepper meat, and sausage in olive oil at medium heat until the sausage is browned, about 6-8 mins. Remove from the heat and add the parsley and basil.

3. Put the breadcrumbs and risotto in a large bowl. Add the vegetables and sausage meat, including the juice in the pan. Mix together. Add the cheese, capers, salt, pepper, and eggs. Mix together thoroughly; the consistency should be wet. If it isn’t, add a little bit of olive oil.

4. Stuff the peppers until they are full and arrange them upright in a deep pan or baking dish. Arrange the leftover stuffing around the peppers. Pour the marinara sauce around the peppers and over the leftover stuffing. Top the peppers with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and a spoonful of sauce if you would like.

5. Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Check the sauce halfway through to make sure it’s not drying out; if it is, add a little bit of water. The peppers are done when a fork slides easily through the skin.

6. Serve the peppers over a bed of pasta. Pour the excess sauce and stuffing over the pasta and enjoy!

Stuffed peppers

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