Experimenting with Stuffed Red Peppers with Italian Sausage

Stuffed Red Peppers
Stuffed Red Peppers

I’m such a sucker when it comes to mentions of food. When I see photos or video shots of good food, I almost inevitablly end up with a craving for it. I am the person for whom the rule “don’t grocery shop while your hungry” applies.

So it was while I was grocery shopping — hungry —  when I saw a magazine photo of a stuffed green pepper.

I’ve never tried to cook a stuff pepper, and with the image in my head, I committed myself —  while still in the grocery store — to making some.

Now here comes another sometimes wasteful mistake I tend to make in the grocery store. I think I can just try to whip something up with an ingredient that catches my eye. In the process of learning to cook better, it’s a fun challenge to pull off something new with existing or new-to-me ingredients. For the most part, it’s a good thing, but I’ve sometimes bought myself into a trap of not really knowing what to do with the thing when I get home and letting it sit until it spoils or not understanding enough about how to cook the ingredient and making something inedible.

I’ll write more at another time on how I’m working to remedy that. For now, back to the peppers.

While at the store, I also tossed some Italian sausage and fresh basil into my cart and dreamed of using up some pearl barley in my pantry. Several days later, I managed to actually follow up on my craving and made stuffed red peppers.

Below are the ingredients and portions I used and some notes on how it turned out. Would love suggestions for improvement.

Stuffed Red Peppers with Italian Sausage

4 large red peppers, top stems, seeds and white veins removed
I package Italian sausage, casings removed
2 cups pearl barley, cooked and drained
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs sundried tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3 Tbs roasted pine nuts
4 Tbs parmesan cheese

Set a pot of water to boil for the peppers while you prepare the veggies.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Once the water is at a boil, submerge the peppers and cook for about 3 minutes or until they start to soften. Don’t let them cook all the way. Drain and place upside down while you prepare the filling.

Saute onions until translucent. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add tomato paste and Italian sausage, making sure to mash it into fine crumbles as it cooks. When the sausage is browned, add basil and barley. Cook until barley is heated through and basil wilts. Add pine nuts.

Stuff each pepper with filling and top with about a tabelspoon of cheese. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

* Notes on the recipe: After taste-testing the filling before I stuffed, I felt it was meh. But eating it along with the pepper made it about five times better. It was the sweet note the dish needed, and in the end had. Next time, I think I’ll cut a little extra off the top and dice up any bits of pepper that I can and toss it in the filling.

Also, I think I might undercook the barley a bit next time and add some broth to the filling mix with the tomato paste so it pulls in the flavor.

Also, having used so much Italian sausage (I admit I knew it was going to be too much, but I’m running out of space in my freezer), it ended up being pretty heavy. At first I thought of the mushrooms as a superfluous add-in to use up some leftovers in my refrigerator. But I think adding more and cutting down on the sausage could improve it.