As we approach the end of summer and autumn produce begins to appear in our markets, it’s easy to forget that, for a few more days at least, it’s still summer. Indeed, even as pumpkins and pears and such make their appearances, summer produce like peppers and tomatoes are still very much in season. So why not make use of them while we still can?
Last month we featured stuffed peppers filled with eggplant and breadcrumbs, a lovely antipasto. In previous summers we featured peppers stuffed with meat and tuna, both excellent secondi or main courses. This week we’re featuring a primo piatto or first course to round out our collection: peperoni ripieni di pasta, or Pasta Stuffed Peppers.
In this recipe, the peppers are stuffed with pasta—here the long thick pasta called bucatini—dressed with a puttanesca-ish tomato sauce and optionally enriched with bits of mozzarella, scamorza, caciocavallo or any meltable cheese you prefer. The peppers infuse the pasta with their sweet yet piquant aroma, transforming an otherwise typical Neapolitan pasta into something quite unique.
Of course, you could use canned tomatoes and greenhouse peppers and make this dish any time of year, but it’s at its best when made with seasonal ingredients, so do give this a try … while you still can!
- 12 bell peppers
For the filing:
- 500g (1 lb) bucatini or other pasta (see Notes)
- 500g (1 lb) fresh plum tomatoes, roughly chopped, or 1 large can of canned tomatoes, or a jar of passata di pomodoro
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
- 100g (3-1/2 oz) capers, rinsed
- 100g (3-1/2 oz) olives
- 100g (3-1/2 oz) anchovy fillets, cut up*
- A pinch of dried oregano
- A few sprigs of fresh parsley, finely minced
- Salt and pepper
- olive oil
- 500g (1 lb) eggplant, cubed and sautéed “a funghetto”
- A ball of mozzarella, scamorza, caciocavallo or other meltable cheese, cut into cubes
- Grated parmigiano-reggiano or pecorino romano, for topping
Trim off the tops of the peppers and remove the core, seeds and ribs from their insides. Parboil the peppers in abundant water for about 5-6 minutes, long enough to soften them a bit. They should remain firm enough, however, to stay standing.
In a large sauté pan, sauté the garlic briefly in olive oil, then add the tomatoes. Simmer until the tomatoes have melted and reduced to saucy consistency, about 15 minutes or so. Then add the olives and capers and let them simmer another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and fold in the oregano, parsley and anchovy fillets.
Meanwhile, boil the pasta in well salted water until ever so slightly underdone, say a minute less than indicated on the package.
In a large mixing bowl, add the cooked pasta and the tomato sauce and mix well.
Using tongs or a carving fork, twirl the pasta and fill the peppers with it, interspersing the pasta strands with bits of the mozzarella and/or eggplant if using. Top with any excess sauce and, if using the grated cheese.
Transfer the peppers to a well greased baking dish. Bake at in a moderate oven (180C/350F) for about 30 minutes, until heated through and lightly browned on top.
Let cool for at least 5 minutes or so before serving.
As you may remember from my stuffed pepper post earlier this summer, I generally don’t skin or pre-cook my peppers before filling them. But for peperoni ripieni di pasta, a quick parboil to soften a bit makes sense, as that means less time in the oven, which in turn makes it less likely you’ll overcook the pasta. (By the way, some recipes suggest parboiling will make the peppers peelable as ell, but that wasn’t the case for me.) Some recipes call for pre-roasting the peppers in a moderate oven for 15-30 minutes, yet others for frying them (q.v. our post from earlier this summer).
Last time I mentioned that I prefer stuffing my peppers open faced, and that’s mostly true, but I felt like a change. And in fact, I think when you’re stuffing peppers with pasta, you’re better off stuffing them standing up. This way, the pepper provides more protection against the oven’s intense heat and helps prevent the pasta from overcooking. Do take care, though, to find peppers that will stand up on their own. Often at least one of their ‘legs’ tends to be longer than another, leaving the pepper liable to keel over, spilling out your lovely pasta filling. No harm done, of course, even if it does. The dish will still taste delicious. But not exactly what you might want to serve your guests at a dinner party.
Francesconi’s recipe, which she styles peperoni imbottiti di maccheroni, calls for perciatelli, the name Neapolitans give to the long pasta most readers probably know as bucatini. Other traditional Neapolitan recipes call for spaghetti, which may be easier to find where you live. Long pasta isn’t the most intuitive choice for a filling but it’s actually works quite well. You need only have enough pasta skills you can twirl the strands into a small nest before gingerly inserting it into the pepper. That said, most modern recipes call for various kinds of smaller short pastas. So feel free to experiment.
The filling for peperoni ripieni di pasta, of course, lends itself to all sorts of flavorings. Francesconi suggests optionally adding eggplant cubed and lightly sautéed in olive oil and garlic— “a funghetto” as the Italians call it. See this post for the recipe. Personally I like interspersing the pasta with bits of fresh mozzarella, which adds a milky richness to the filling. Also quite common are scamorza or caciocavallo, both pasta filata cheeses like mozzarella but much firmer. They are hard to find Stateside, so a mild provolone or other melting cheese would do fine as well. Yet other recipes call for a sprinkling of pecorino romano. A few fresh basil leaves would lend a summery freshness to the sauce, instead of or even in addition to the oregano and parsley.
Like the eggplant and breadcrumb stuffed peppers we looked at back in August, peperoni ripieni di pasta can be easily veganized. Just omit the anchovies and any cheeses.
There are even recipes that take the filling in whole different direction, where you dress the pasta with a creamy, cheesy béchamel, sometimes with bits of cooked ham. I’d call that a different recipe that merits its own post, one of the these days…
Peperoni ripieni di pasta
- 12 bell peppers
For the filling
- 500g 1 lb bucatini or other pasta
- 500g 1 lb fresh plum tomatoes roughly chopped, or 1 large can of canned tomatoes, or a jar of passata di pomodoro
- 1 cloves garlic peeled and slightly crushed
- 100g 3-1/2 oz capers rinsed
- 100g 3-1/2 oz olives
- 100g 3-1/2 oz anchovy fillets cut up
- A pinch of dried oregano
- A few sprigs of fresh parsley finely minced
- Salt and pepper
- olive oil
- 500g 1 lb 500g (1 lb) eggplant, cubed and sautéed in olive oil and garlic
- 1 ball mozzarella, scamorza, caciocavallo or other meltable cheese cut into cubes
- Grated parmigiano-reggiano or pecorino romano for topping
- Trim off the tops of the peppers and remove the core, seeds and ribs from their insides. Parboil the peppers in abundant water for about 5-6 minutes, long enough to soften them a bit. They should remain firm enough, however, to stay standing.
- In a large sauté pan, sauté the garlic briefly in olive oil, then add the tomatoes. Simmer until the tomatoes have melted and reduced to saucy consistency, about 15 minutes or so. Then add the olives and capers and let them simmer another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and fold in the oregano, parsley and anchovy fillets.
- Meanwhile, boil the pasta in well salted water until ever so slightly underdone, say a minute less than indicated on the package.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the cooked pasta and the tomato sauce and mix well.
- Using tongs or a carving fork, twirl the pasta and fill the peppers with it, interspersing the pasta strands with bits of the mozzarella and/or eggplant if using. Top with any excess sauce and, if using the grated cheese.
- Transfer the peppers to a well greased baking dish. Bake at in a moderate oven (180C/350F) for about 30 minutes, until heated through and slightly browned on top.
- Let cool for at least 5 minutes or so before serving. These peppers are also quite nice served lukewarm or at room temperature.
So beautiful! It is also great to use any leftover bucatini and here we have an excellent budget friendly week dinner! Sooooo tasty !
Thanks so much. Glad you liked it. 🙂
I love stuffed peppers but I’ve never stuffed them with pasta…what a great idea! I can imagine that the pasta would take on all the sweetness of the peppers and be so delicious! Here in the tropics, we are at the peak of tomato and pepper season so I think I’m going to have to try this very soon.
The pasta definitely picks up the aroma of the peppers. Hope you do like it if you try it!
i do like roasted capsicums (peppers) and i have often made a similar recipe but with rice rather than pasta. they look tasty.
Thanks, Sherry. Hope you do try this out. Very nice even if rice is also a treat.
Nice and simple, I love the presentation, they look elegant too, I bet they taste awesome
*late laughter* Since my pasta usually sitsder the peppers . . . this is rather fun ! On the southern Italian side the dish has all the flavours I so love . . . on the northern I’ll be an imaginative child and enjoy this variation . . . !
Thanks so much, Eha
This is really fun, Frank – I can imagine that it would be a big hit with kids, though I have no children so maybe I am not the best one to say that. I do know that I would have loved it as a kid. My adult child is, in fact, asking for it right now.
Ha! Thanks from one manchild to another… 😉
Well what a fun idea you’ve got here! I do love pasta, and I do love stuffed peppers…but I’ve never thought of combining them together. This sounds like a simple recipe yet it’s still elegant enough to serve to company. Thanks for sharing, Frank!
It definitely would make an excellent choice for company, I think, David!
Filling peppers with pasta , what a great idea and a beautiful presentation .
Thanks so much, Gerlinde!
Gorgeous dish, and the flavors sound terrific. I’ve never seen peppers stuffed with pasta — really like the idea. And it is the perfect dish for the season — it’s only this time of the year that I bother to cook with fresh tomatoes, because their quality is so high (otherwise it’s canned or jarred for me for at least 9 months of the year). I think I’d definitely add the mozzarella — who can resist cheesy baked things? Anyway, really like this — thanks.
Thanks, John! And yeah, I’m a big fan of the mozzarella, too!
What a beautiful dish! I love that the pepper is the vessel for the pasta. It sounds very tasty too.
It is pretty tasty, I’d say. Worth a try!
How cute are these? I’ve never seen anything like this before, you’re always teaching me new dishes! love peppers any which way, but my favorite is pickled!
Thanks, Christina. I love pickled peppers, too. These would make for a fun change, I think.
Stunning presentation and I bet they taste delicious!