There are certain recipes that we tend to make frequently, whether it’s because they are easy to make, are our favorites, or they bring back fond memories. I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful mother who was also a great cook, and I remember the meals that would repeat several times during the month. There were sloppy Joe’s, taco night, homemade mac and cheese, and crepes for a while—after all, it was the 80s. The one thing I don’t recall her making was stuffed peppers, so I never even made a stuffed pepper until my 40s, and it wasn’t until this recipe that I found one that I like and my family loves. I once again found it on halfbakedharvest.com, but have modified to my liking. I hope you like it too.
3-4 red bell peppers
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage (I used ½ pork sausage and ½ chicken sausage)
1 large zucchini or yellow squash, chopped into small pieces
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 cups tomato sauce
1 ½ cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded fontina cheese (I use Monterey Jack or 4 cheese Italian)
¾ cup traditional pesto (I like the jarred Pastene brand basil pesto)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
½ cup pepperoni slices (optional) I used turkey pepperoni
Fresh basil for serving
1) Place the peppers over an open flame on a gas burner and lightly char, turning 2-3 times for 3-4 minutes total. Don’t blacken them, just a light char. Alternately, place the peppers under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, watch closely, do not burn.
2) Put the peppers in a bowl and cover with plate and let steam 10 minutes, then slice in half and discard the seeds.
3) In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat, add the sausage and zucchini. Cook until meat is browned, about 5-8 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add the oregano, thyme, 1½ cups of the tomato sauce, pinch of salt and pepper and red pepper flakes. Simmer 10 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.
4) In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, fontina cheese and pesto.
5) Preheat oven to 425. Spoon the remaining ½ cup of tomato sauce into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Arrange the peppers in the dish and stuff them with the meat mixture, then add a spoonful of cheese mixture, top with sprinkle of the mozzarella cheese and pepperoni slices (if using).
6) Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is lightly browned. Serve with fresh basil on top.