Italian Meat Stuffed Peppers (Peperoni ripieni di carne)

Peperoni ripieni di carne (Italian Meat Stuffed Peppers)

In antipasti, secondi piatti by Frank32 Comments

This iconic summer dish—and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s still summer—is one of many recipes for stuffed peppers in the Italian repertoire. Tuna Stuffed Peppers are a Neapolitan classic, while other recipes call for a vegetarian eggplant or bread stuffing. But today I’d like to show you how to make Italian Meat Stuffed Peppers, using a mixture very much like the one used in Italian cooking to make meatballs and meatloaves. This version makes for a fairly substantial meal that you can serve as an antipasto or second course.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • 4 bell peppers

For the stuffing:

  • 300g (10-1/2 oz) chopped meat (see Notes)
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) bread, without the crust, soaked in milk and/or water
  • 50-75g (2-3 oz) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • A few sprigs of fresh parsley, finely minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the vegetable ‘bed’:

  • Trimmings from the bell peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • A pinch of oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the topping:

  • Breadcrumbs, and/or
  • more grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil

Directions

Prepping the peppers

Cut the peppers in half vertically from tail to stem. Trim out any white ribbing and the cores from the insides of the pepper halves.  I like to leave the actual stem on the pepper, so as to better hold in the stuffing. (See photo in Notes below for an illustration.)

Making the Stuffing

Trim the bread of its crust and break it up into pieces Place the bread in a bowl and pour over enough milk and/or water to moisten the bread well. Let it sit for a few minutes to let the liquid penetrate.

Place the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. When the bread is ready, shred it well with your hands and add it to the rest. Then—and here using your well-washed hands is the best way to go—mix everything together very well, until you have a uniform and rather soft mixture. If you like, you can test for seasoning by frying a small piece of the stuffing in a skillet and tasting it. Adjust the seasonings as you think best: a bit more salt or pepper, perhaps some more grated cheese, if it needs it.

Stuffing the Peppers

Now take a handful of the meat mixture and stuff all of pepper halves with it, making sure to pack the stuffing in quite well. It’s up to you how high you want to pile on the stuffing. Personally, I like to pile it on.

Baking the Peppers

Grease the bottom of a baking dish large enough to hold all the peppers in a single layer with a generous drizzle of olive oil. If you like, you can lay out a ‘bed’ of vegetables. This will hold the peppers in place and provide a nice accompaniment to them, almost a kind of a sauce. Cut up one or more the vegetables listed above into small dice and mix well with the oregano, salt, pepper and olive oil. Lay the seasoned vegetables out evenly on the bottom of the baking dish.

Now place the pepper halves, stuffing side up in the baking dish. Top the peppers with breadcrumbs and/or more grated cheese. Drizzle everything well with olive oil.

Bake the peppers in a moderate (180C/350F) oven for about 45-60 minutes, or until the peppers are tender and the stuffing cooked through, and the peppers have nicely browned on top.

Italian Meat Stuffed Peppers

Serving the Peppers

Remove the peppers from the oven and let the cool off before eating them. Italian Meat Stuffed Peppers can be eaten warm or at room temperature, but not piping hot from the oven. They are quite good—perhaps even better—the next day.

Notes on Italian Meat Stuffed Peppers

Another—and in fact more common—way to stuff these peppers is to cut off the tops, trim out the insides and stuff them vertically. And instead of topping them with breadcrumbs and cheese, simply place the tops back on the peppers. Personally, I prefer stuffing the peppers ‘sideways’, so to speak, as illustrated in this recipe. For one thing, peppers don’t always stand up properly given their irregular shapes, but I also like leaving more of the stuffing exposed so it forms a nice golden, caramelized crust. But obviously, it’s up to you.

More or less any kind of pepper would work in this recipe, except perhaps for some of the thinner ‘frying peppers’, which would simply not hold the stuffing. Bell peppers, however, are particularly well shaped for holding the meat stuffing. Many people seem to favor red bell peppers. Their taste compliments the stuffing very nicely.

For today’s recipe, I found something I hadn’t come across before, purple skinned peppers. It was a curiosity, though they turned green when cooked, as the photographs show. Not sure I could discern any particularly unique taste profile.

Peperoni ripieni di carne-1

You want balance in terms of size. The peppers should be large enough to hold a fair amount of stuffing but I would avoid those ‘monster’ peppers you will sometimes come across. You want to be able to include a bit of pepper in every bite of stuffing, something you can’t do if your pepper is too large.

Tips on the Stuffing

Perhaps the most typical meat for stuffing peppers is beef, but you can mix the beef with pork—some recipes call for a bit of sausage meat or cured pork like mortadella—for a more savory result. And if you want to go ‘light’ with ground turkey or even chicken, even it wouldn’t be very traditional, why not experiment?

You may have noticed that the recipes calls for the crumb of old bread (ie, bread without the crust), soaked in milk or water and crumbled, instead of breadcrumbs. This is the usual Italian method for meat mixtures for stuffings, meatballs and meatloaves. Italians generally limit their use of breadcrumbs to breading cutlets and such. This makes sense if you think about the days before commercial breadcrumbs when you were using actual bread in either case: why bother with the laborious process of grating the bread for crumbs if you could simply break it up and soak it? And, tradition aside, I do find that the Italian way produces a finer flavor and texture—provided that the bread has a good, firm texture like a good pane casereccio. (A softer bread would simply turn to mush.) But if you prefer, you can always use an equivalent amount of breadcrumbs, along with a few spoonfuls of milk, instead.

As for many recipes, you should take the measurements given for the meat stuffing as a suggestion. Obviously, you may need more or less stuffing, depending on the size of your peppers. It’s better to make too much than too little. After all, you can always use the extra stuffing for making meatballs, or stuffing say a stray zucchini, or if you have a good amount left over, for making a meatloaf.

Peperoni ripieni di carne (Meat-Stuffed Peppers)

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: Serves 4-6

Peperoni ripieni di carne (Meat-Stuffed Peppers)

Ingredients

  • 4 bell peppers
  • For the stuffing:
  • 300g (10-1/2 oz) chopped meat (see Notes)
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) bread, without the crust, soaked in milk and/or water
  • 50-75g (2-3 oz) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • A few sprigs of fresh parsley, finely minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • For the vegetable 'bed':
  • Trimmings from the bell peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • A pinch of oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • For the topping:
  • Breadcrumbs, and/or
  • more grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil

Directions

    Prepping the peppers
  1. Cut the peppers in half vertically from tail to stem. Trim out any white ribbing and the cores from the insides of the pepper halves. I like to leave the actual stem on the pepper, so as to better hold in the stuffing. (See photo in Notes below for an illustration.)
  2. Making the Stuffing
  3. Trim the bread of its crust and break it up into pieces Place the bread in a bowl and pour over enough milk and/or water to moisten the bread well. Let it sit for a few minutes to let the liquid penetrate.
  4. Place the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. When the bread is ready, shred it well with your hands and add it to the rest. Then—and here using your well-washed hands is the best way to go—mix everything together very well, until you have a uniform and rather soft mixture. If you like, you can test for seasoning by frying a small piece of the stuffing in a skillet and tasting it. Adjust the seasonings as you think best: a bit more salt or pepper, perhaps some more grated cheese, if it needs it.
  5. Stuffing the Peppers
  6. Take a handful of the meat mixture and stuff all of pepper halves with it, making sure to pack the stuffing in quite well. It's up to you how high you want to pile on the stuffing. Personally, I like to pile it on.
  7. Baking the Peppers
  8. Grease the bottom of a baking dish large enough to hold all the peppers in a single layer with a generous drizzle of olive oil. If you like, you can lay out a 'bed' of vegetables. This will hold the peppers in place and provide a nice accompaniment to them, almost a kind of a sauce. Cut up one or more the vegetables listed above into small dice and mix well with the oregano, salt, pepper and olive oil. Lay the seasoned vegetables out evenly on the bottom of the baking dish.
  9. Now place the pepper halves, stuffing side up in the baking dish. Top the peppers with breadcrumbs and/or more grated cheese. Drizzle everything well with olive oil.
  10. Bake the peppers in a moderate (180C/350F) oven for about 45-60 minutes, or until the peppers are tender and the stuffing cooked through, and the peppers have nicely browned on top.
  11. Serving the Peppers
  12. Remove the peppers from the oven and let the cool off before eating them. These stuffed peppers can be eaten warm or at room temperature, but not piping hot from the oven. They are quite good—perhaps even better—the next day.
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Comments

  1. Yummy yummy yummy! Such a beautiful alternative to gemista. We love how you share authentic Italian recipes that are so close to what we’re used to eat here in Greece Frank. This dish is another amazing example of this.
    Honestly. Thank you.

    1. Author

      It is interesting to see how many similar dishes there are! I remember when I posted about a typically Roman dish, tomatoes stuffed with rice, I got tweets from Greeks telling me that it was a Greek dish, which I guess it is. Make sense, though, since the two cuisines are working with a similar set of ingredients. What’s really interesting are the subtle and not so subtle variations across cultures. It would make for a fascinating study.

      1. Excellent thoughts. We’re no historians of course, but perhaps some of the similarities are because of the blending of Greek settlers and Italian (Roman) inhabitants of the South, in the period of Magna Graecia and even more recently during the Ottoman occupation of Greece, when people left from here for Sicily and the south of Italy, once again:)
        We find that in countless ways, Greeks and Italians think and behave the same (and thus cook very similar) 🙂
        Have a wonderful day ahead Frank!
        Panos and Mirella

        1. Author

          I think that could definitely be the case for the cooking of southern Italy (Campania, Puglia, Basilicata) etc.

  2. What a lovely stuffed pepper recipe! I make them occasionally but mostly the Asian style which doesn’t use bread crumb and replaces cheese with crated ginger. But I think it’s time for me switch up next time when I make stuffed peppers. Thanks for sharing!

  3. How did I miss this lovely recipe? Yet another Italian recipe I have not made or tried. I agree, I love the way they are stuffed sideways! It makes so much more sense (and easier to eat) than the ones I’ve seen which sit upright and what you said about the topping getting a bit more of a golden crust!

  4. I like those purple peppers too, though I wish they retained their pretty color after they are cooked. I agree with your choice os stuffing them sideways. When I moved to Milan, one of my room-mates made them and I loved them. My mother was not into stuffing vegetables, I think because she didn’t like baking. The only exception was rice-stuffed tomatoes, which she made often in the summer. I have a weak spot for stuffed vegetables: peppers, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions.

    1. Author

      Rice-stuffed tomatoes are really awesome. For some reason, though, I didn’t make them this year… and now it’s too late!

  5. Frank – we made these for dinner last night and they were fantastic. This is going in our regular rotation!

  6. We are a stuffed-pepper-loving-household here. Loving some of the ideas I haven’t used (mortadella – oh yes). The peppers are the best thing in my garden right now. Well… there’s still zucchini but we don’t mention those…

  7. Coming over from David’s…you have some great recipes!
    I love stuffed peppers and these look like something I would enjoy.
    I’ve tried the purple peppers but they don’t retain their color or taste any different! Just like the purple beans and the purple okra!

    Nazneen

    1. Author

      Welcome to our humble site, Nazneen! And thanks so much for your kinds words. Hope to get over and check out your place very soon… 🙂

  8. Frank – I like your “sideways” version much better for the reasons you mention: they sit in the pan easier, and I prefer a crumb topping to simply adding pepper top. Also, am a fan that these aren’t stuffed with rice!

  9. Stuffed Peppers of this type were a regular part of our meals when growing up, down to the letter. Often my mother would make an ample amount for us to have the next evening. A simple yet ever so satisfying meal.

  10. I always freeze leftover stale bread, so I always have some to use in meatballs or meat loaf. Didn’t know not to use breadcrumbs until a friend taught me your method about a decade ago, though. Anyway, what a great recipe! I’ll eat this any time of the year — love its flavor. Thanks!

    1. Author

      Thanks, John! I’ll have to start freezing my old bread—I have to admit, I usually just throw it out if there’s no immediate use for it. Shame on me!

  11. non ho mai visto peperoni di quel bellissimo colore viola ! Qui li trovo, gialli, rossi,qualche volta arancione e verdi (che non amo )…Ottima ricetta, per me certamente un piatto unico, molto gustosa e di bella figura ! Buon weekend Frank

    1. Author

      I peperoni verdi hanno un sapore decisamente meno dolce rispetto agli altri tipi, è vero… Buon weekend anche a te, Chiara!

  12. I can say that this is a wonderful dish. Coincidentally, I prepared this for dinner last night and now I get your recipe in my inbox this morning. I prepared mine almost precisely as you — however mine were upright/vertical and I added just a bit of passata to the baking pan with the bed of veggies. Served with some garlic mashed potatoes. Delicious! Thanks Frank for your devotion to your site.

    1. Author

      I guess great minds think alike, Jim! 😉 A bit of passata sounds like a nice touch—will have to try that next time.

  13. it’s been (literally) decades since I had meat stuffed peppers: it was one of those dishes that my relatives in Calabria used to make beautifully. I remember them being deliciously oily and hugely tasty + thanks for reminding me of such a nice dish – time for me to cook them (I generally stuff peppers with aubergines and pecorino)

    + the only thing I would do differently is that I would peel the peppers, using a potato peeler or by roasting them on a high flame and for a short time + I totally agree: they are even better the next day. ciao Frank stefano ps: it is still definitely summer (I am off to Salento in Puglia for a couple of weeks and I will try to cook these using real, sun kissed Italian peppers)

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