Stuffed peppers might seem like a fussy idea but they’re really not. I have been trying to make these for the blog for over 12 months now. Usually what happens is I buy the green peppers for stuffing – selecting nice flat-bottomed peppers, of course – and I stick them in the fridge. A couple days later I’ll think of another recipe I want to try and I’ll grab one or two of my peppers and completely forget that they were meant to be stuffed with tangy, garlicky rice and lentil filling. So after doing this a few times I resigned myself to the fact that maybe I just didn’t want stuffed peppers badly enough so I stopped planning to make them.
Then randomly one night Levi asked me to make stuffed peppers. So I added green peppers to my shopping list and bought them. And shock of shocks … I actually went through with it. Finally.
Now, for some notes about the ingredients.
This recipe calls for arborio rice. You know, the rice that’s used for risotto? Well, the creaminess that you expect from risotto comes from the arborio rice and it definitely gives this dish a slight thickness and creaminess. I highly recommend using arborio if you have it on hand. If you don’t, any long grain rice will do. You can use brown rice or even a rice blend here too.
Saffron is a Spanish-cooking staple as far as I can tell. Saffron is also pretty expensive. I suppose that might have something to do with where it comes from and how it’s harvested. The threads of saffron are harvested from a particular type of crocus flower. The saffron is the stigma of the crocus flower. Each stigma is painstakingly plucked from the flower and dried. Saffron is considered one of the most costly spices by weight. Sometimes it can be difficult to locate quality saffron here in my city but I have found it quite often in little tiny containers at Bulk Barn. I often times wish we had a spice shop like The Silk Road Spice Merchant in Calgary where I could walk in and explore all varieties of spices from around the world. You can order online and they’ll ship too.
I use red lentils in this recipe because they are nice and subtle. You could definitely use brown lentils or even lentilles du Puy instead but ensure you have enough liquid to facilitate even cooking so that the lentils and rice are finished cooking at around the same time. You may find that you need to add another 1/4 cup of vegetable broth to the simmering tomato rice-lentil mixture and let it cook just a bit longer than the 15 minutes indicated. You’ll have to experiment and watch it closely as I haven’t tested using other lentils out. If you do try other lentils in this recipe, I’d love it if you’d share your tips in the comments below.
You can make your own tomato sauce or buy some from the store. I have done both. If tomatoes are in season or a decent price at the grocery store then making your own sauce is definitely the way to go. If you need a good recipe for homemade tomato sauce then check out my recipe here (not the same as marinara sauce). Using a can of tomato sauce from the grocery store in a pinch is totally acceptable and in fact, in these photos I used canned. The only difference you’ll notice is the salt content will increase with store-bought sauce. You may need/want to adjust your seasoning accordingly.
Oh and lastly, the peppers. You can use either green or red bell peppers in this. I used green because they happened to have the nicest flattest bottoms. This filling was enough to fill four medium peppers quite full. If your peppers are smaller, use 6. If yours are bigger, you should still be able to use 4 but they won’t be overfilled like mine were.
Let’s talk about cooking this mess. You can stuff a whole pepper or cut the peppers in half lengthwise and stuff the halves. You could cut thick slices through the cored pepper, into rings and lay those in the baking dish and fill them with the rice mixture. Finally, you could bake this as a casserole and take the peppers cut into large chunks mixed in. Pour the tomato sauce over top and bake it that way. Pretty much any way you cook this recipe up, it should be approximately the same amount of time.
Apparently there are baking dishes out there specifically to cook stuffed peppers in. If you care about having a pepper flop over in the pan then maybe invest in a pan like that. Since baking stuffed peppers doesn’t happen all that often here I can’t justify buying a silly pepper pan. Just bake this in a baking dish that they fit nicely into – I used my square glass 8 x 8 baking dish lined with foil. I didn’t care that one of the peppers flopped over once I uncovered them.
- 4 large green bell peppers with relatively flat bottoms
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 medium tomatoes, diced
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- ¼ cup red lentils
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 2½ cups vegetable broth
- Pinch of saffron threads
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 cups tomato sauce
- Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a baking dish with aluminum foil.
- Cut green peppers according to how you'd like to stuff them. (See in-post comments from above.)
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic in oil until softened and starting to brown.
- Add rice and lentils. Stir.
- Add diced tomatoes, dried oregano and sugar. Cook for about 10 minutes or until most of the liquid from the tomatoes is absorbed.
- Add vegetable broth and saffron threads. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil then simmer on low for 15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed but the rice should be al dente. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
- Spoon into green peppers. Pour tomato sauce around the peppers and over top.
- Cover with foil and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes or until rice is cooked through.
- Let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes before transferring to plates.
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I shared this recipe for Whole Food Fridays at Allergy Free Alaska.