Winter is upon us, which means two things: We’re craving warm, hearty meals to keep us cozy, and indulgent food faces us at every turn. Curb some of those less healthy cravings while satisfying your comfort food need with these Greek stuffed peppers, baked and filled to the brim with fragrantly-spiced ground meat, zucchini, tomatoes, and feta.
Blogger, home chef, and recipe developer Kate Shungu of Gift of Hospitality developed this recipe to be the perfect weeknight dinner, and something you probably already have a lot of the ingredients for in your pantry. "It’s a great weeknight recipe and you can make them with things you can find in your freezer or pantry, like rice, beans, meat, spices, odds and ends from the veggie drawer. I’ve always loved stuffed peppers, but my husband and I actually honeymooned in Greece, so I based this on some of the vegetable platters that we had there, that had peppers and zucchini and onions and tomatoes, and loads of feta. So I took all of those items and put them into a pepper."
It’s also a super versatile meal, depending on your audience. "It’s easy to scale up and down," says Shungu, "It makes eight half peppers, the average eater would maybe eat two. If you’re not that hungry, you can have one and a salad or something. You can also halve the recipe, or serve it with a lot of sides and really stretch it to serve eight people."
First, gather the ingredients for these Greek stuffed peppers
The most important ingredient when making Greek stuffed peppers, perhaps, is your dish’s vessel. "The biggest thing to look for is a pepper that you can cut in half and have two relatively flat sides," explains Shungu. Look for large bell peppers that are generally the same size, so they’ll cook evenly and stay relatively upright in your baking dish. If they’re not sitting up straight, you can carefully shave a little bit off the outer edge of the pepper with a chef’s knife to create a flatter side. Colors are totally up to you — Shungu chose a mix of colors here for a dish with the most festivity.
Did you know the different colors of a bell pepper are mostly based on when it’s harvested, and how ripe it is? That being said, there’s not really any taste or texture differences between the different colors. You also need a red onion, a zucchini, a can of fire-roasted tomatoes, ground beef or lamb, dried oregano, white rice, olive oil, salt, crumbled feta cheese, and some fresh parsley.
You’ll also need a baking dish, a skillet, a saucepan, a chef’s knife, and a wooden spoon or spatula.
Next, prep your peppers
Time to get your bell peppers all cooked up and ready. First, set your oven to preheat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, cut your peppers in half lengthwise (through the stem), trying to make your cut as even as possible. Remove the stem, seeds and whitish membranes with the tip of your knife, and give them a quick rinse if they are particularly seedy.
Next, arrange them in your baking dish with the cut side up and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pour about 1/4 cup of water into the base of your baking dish — this will help the peppers steam up and get nice and tender. Wrap the top of your dish tightly with foil, to maintain that aforementioned steaminess.
Pop them in the oven for about 20 minutes. This is just the first round of baking, to get them almost tender, so be careful not to overcook them. Remove the dish and foil and set aside.
Next up, start cooking the filling for your stuffed peppers
The most seasoned home cooks know that the best meals are all about multitasking, and having dinner on the table in a reasonable amount of time. While the peppers are cooking, pour the rice and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and let cook for 20 minutes, or until most of the water has been absorbed and the rice is fluffy and tender. Uncover and fluff the rice with a fork.
If you can handle the pressure, while the rice is cooking, heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and ground beef or lamb. You could definitely use turkey or a meat substitute here as well — Shungu says a white bean like Great Northern or Cannellini beans would make a great vegetarian version of this dish.
Cook, stirring occasionally to break up large chunks, until the meat is almost cooked through and the onion is translucent, about 3–4 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook for 3–4 minutes more.
Mix the rice and the meat and mix it all up
Now that the meat, onion, and zucchini are cooked and fragrant, we have just a few more easy steps to bring it all together. Open your can of fire-roasted tomatoes and pour it into the skillet, liquid and all.
"You can use really any can of tomatoes. If you don’t have fire-roasted, you can use regular diced. If you only have whole tomatoes, you can dice those up and throw them in there. Liquid is fine in this recipe, so you could also use an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce as a replacement as well," says Shungu. Add the dried oregano, and the remaining ¾ teaspoon salt. Then, add the cooked rice and stir it all up until the rice is coated and it’s all well-combined.
Finally, stuff those peppers to the brim
Now, take your cooked and slightly cooled peppers and spoon a generous mixture of filling into the center of each one. Use the back of your spoon to spread it into all the nooks and crannies, and don’t be afraid to pile it up high for a hearty meal. Then, you’ll top each pepper half with a generous sprinkle of tangy feta cheese, then pop them back into the oven for a quick 8-10 minutes. Everything is pretty much cooked up to this point, so this is really just to bring all the flavors together and give the feta cheese a warm, golden crust. "Feta doesn’t really melt, it keeps its shape. It’s kind of like a meringue, where the tips will start to turn brown but it will relatively look the same." Shungu’s a huge feta fan, so recommends being liberal with the feta: serve the peppers with a bowl of crumbled feta on the side, or even stir some in to the meat and veggie mixture before you stuff your peppers.
Top with fresh chopped parsley or another herb of your choice, then serve while they’re hot! You’ll want to serve these with a sharp knife too. "Keeping with the Greek theme, you could serve this with a side of pita and hummus, or a salad of your choice. A Greek salad with Kalamata olives, tomatoes, feta, and onion would also go great with it."
Curb some of those less healthy cravings while satisfying your comfort food need with these Greek stuffed peppers, baked and filled to the brim with fragrantly-spiced ground meat, zucchini, tomatoes, and feta.
- 4 bell peppers
- 1¼ teaspoon salt, divided
- ½ cup long-grain white rice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small red onion, finely diced
- 1 small zucchini, finely diced
- 1 pound lean ground beef or ground lamb (or protein of your choosing)
- 1 (15-ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes (undrained)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ⅔ cup feta, crumbled
- chopped fresh parsley for garnish
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut the bell peppers in half and remove the seeds and membranes. Place the peppers, cut side up, in a 13×9 inch oven-safe dish, and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt.
- Pour ¼ cup of water in the bottom of the dish and cover the dish with foil. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until the peppers are almost tender. Carefully lift the foil off the top of the dish—there will be steam! Drain the water from the dish and from the peppers.
- While the peppers are cooking, place the rice and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and let cook for 20 minutes. Uncover and fluff the rice with a fork.
- While the rice is cooking, heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and ground beef or lamb. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is almost cooked through and the onion is translucent, about 3–4 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook for 3–4 minutes more.
- Add the diced tomatoes and their liquid, oregano, and remaining ¾ teaspoon salt. Then, add the rice and stir to combine.
- Divide the mixture evenly among the bell peppers. Top with feta, and bake for 8–10 minutes, or until the feta is golden and the peppers are hot throughout. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired, and serve immediately.