In college, I shared an apartment with three friends. We divvied up cooking responsibilities because none of us were on the “meal plan” after our freshman year — and you can only survive but so long on cold pizza and Lucky Charms.
One night, it was Angie’s turn to make dinner and stuffed peppers were on her menu. Of course, back in those days, if you didn’t have a recipe, or a Nonna, you had to wing it. There was no internet with access to a bazillion ways to make a stuffed pepper (we refer to this era as the dark ages). But Angie had seen her Mom make them a bunch of times and really – how hard could it be? Turns out, harder than she expected.
Coming out of the oven, they looked great and as starving college students, we hungrily crowded around the table. Each of us loaded our plates with the stuffed peppers. Fork and knife in hand, we dug in for our first bite and C-R-U-N-C-H!!! Our eyes widened as we nervously glanced at each other. Stuffed peppers aren’t supposed to be crunchy, and these nearly knocked out some fillings. I started to inspect my pepper and the ground beef and rice stuffing — then it hit me. The rice. It wasn’t pre-cooked. It was raw. Angie turned red with embarrassment, as we laughed. “Well, I didn’t know!” she defended herself.
This is not her recipe. Mine is a turkey version which is lighter because I used ground turkey breast. In place of (cooked) rice, I used old fashioned oats and it’s loaded with veggies, — kale, zucchini and onions, to add fiber and moisture to the turkey breast, which can be dry on its own. For this recipe, I sauté the vegetables first, to mellow the flavors, then just add the turkey, eggs, oatmeal and spices to that vegetable mix and stuff them in the pepper halves.
Top with tangy marinara and a sprinkle of parmesan for a quick straight-from-the-oven meal or add a sprinkle of mozzarella and parmesan and broil for a melty, browned, Italian-inspired healthy dinner any night of the week.
Turkey Stuffed Peppers
The savory turkey stuffing in these peppers is moist and flavorful. Top with your favorite marinara sauce.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups kale finely chopped
- 3 bell peppers sliced vertically through the stem, seeds and ribs removed
- 1 medium zucchini grated on large holes of a box grater
- 1 medium onion finely diced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
- 1/2 cup part skim mozzarella cheese grated, plus additional for serving
- 1 1/4 pounds lean ground turkey breast
- 1/3 cup chicken broth
- 3 cups marinara sauce for serving
- 1 cup mozzarella for serving optional
- parmesan cheese for serving grated, optional
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the zucchini and onion and cook until tender, about 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the crushed red pepper, garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper and cook for one minute more. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the oatmeal, egg, onion mixture, turkey and shredded cheese. Mix with your hands. Add the chicken broth and mix again so that the broth is incorporated into the meat mixture.
- Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Place bell peppers, cut side up onto the baking sheet. Liberally fill peppers with turkey stuffing, making sure to tuck the stuffing into the crevices of the pepper. There should be enough stuffing to mound it atop the peppers. Wet your hands with water and even out the turkey mixture with your fingers -- the water prevents your hands from sticking to the turkey mixture.
- Place the stuffed peppers into the oven and roast the peppers for 30-35 minutes, until the turkey is cooked through.
- Serve peppers with marinara sauce and additional mozzarella and/or parmesan cheese or for a bubbly baked "casserole" pepper -- spread 1/3 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Place the peppers in the dish and spoon marinara on top of each pepper. Top with a sprinkle of mozzarella and parmesan cheese and heat under the broiler for 3-5 minutes until lightly browned and bubbly. Serve.
You could use a spatula or spoon to mix this, but I find that my hands are the best tools for mixing raw meat into other ingredients.
More Stuffed Vegetables: