Gemista (Stuffed Peppers) on plate

You don’t have to be a vegetarian to appreciate the beauty of a pepper. Peppers are incredibly versatile, and you can cook them in so many different ways, or you can even eat them raw. Whether you’re using them as a filling for fajitas or cutting them into strips and dipping them in veggie dip, they hit the spot every time. Another great part of peppers is their health benefits. According to WebMD, peppers are packed with vitamins, folic acid, and fiber. What’s not to love? These stuffed peppers, also known as gemista, are filled with rice, ground beef, and other veggies, making them a filling yet healthy meal that the whole family can enjoy.

Recipe developer Catherine Brookes of Blue Sky Eating came up with this wonderful recipe that checks all the boxes. Veggies? Check. Meat? Check. Rice? Check. "These roasted peppers and tomatoes are stuffed full of the most delicious herby, meaty filling and the garlicky tomato sauce just tops it off perfectly," Brookes raves. And, you can eat it as a meal or an appetizer. "One tomato or pepper on its own could certainly work as an app, but for me one of each worked great as a full meal and filled me up," she says.

Gather the ingredients for gemista (stuffed peppers) recipe

stuffed pepper ingredients

Start things off with a trip to the grocery store. You will need large beef tomatoes, green bell peppers, olive oil, tomato puree, salt, white pepper, sugar, onion, zucchini, carrot, garlic, ground beef, a can of chopped tomatoes, white rice, oregano, vegetable stock, pepper, and chopped fresh parsley.

Cut the tops off tomatoes and peppers

peppers on a plate

You will need a cutting board and a sharp knife for this step. Carefully slice the tops of the peppers and the tomatoes and set them aside. Do not throw away the "lids," you will need those later.

Be sure to hollow out the peppers and discard the middles. Then, use a spoon or knife to scoop out the tomato flesh and place it straight into the food processor. "I would say using the flesh of the fresh tomatoes in the sauce makes it taste extra special," Brookes says. "The perfect balance of sweet, juicy and acidic!"

Blend up a tomato-y sauce

tomato sauce in pan

There are still a few more things to add in with the tomato flesh. Toss in the olive oil, the tomato puree, three cloves of garlic, one teaspoon of salt, white pepper, and sugar. Turn on the food processor and blitz until smooth. This shouldn’t take more than a few seconds.

Since the tomato sauce is good to go, pour it into the bottom of a large roasting pan and place the hollowed-out peppers and tomatoes on top.

Cook the veggies

veggies in a pan

Place a high-sided frying pan on your stove and drizzle in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Turn the heat to medium and toss in the onion, zucchini, and carrots. Continue cooking the veggies for about 10 minutes, so they get nice and soft.

Then, add the remaining two cloves of garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Be sure you constantly stir the mixture to distribute the garlic well.

Add the rest of the items for the filling

veggies and rice in pan

There are still a few more ingredients that make up the filling for the peppers. Add the ground beef and crank up the heat to high. Use a wooden spoon to break apart the meat as it cooks. Continue cooking the beef until it’s thoroughly cooked through and starts browning. "You could sub for beans or a vegan meat alternative if preferred," Brookes notes.

Then, dump in the rice, oregano, canned tomatoes, and vegetable stock. Stir well and once the liquid starts to boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 10 minutes. At this point, you can also preheat your oven to 400 F.

Stuff the peppers

stuffed peppers in pan

To season the filling, add some chopped parsley, salt, and pepper to taste. Then, spoon the filling mixture into the prepared peppers and tomatoes, and place the tops (or lids) back on.

Cover the roasting tray with foil and bake for about 40 minutes. Then, remove the foil and bake for an additional 40 minutes.

Serve your hearty gemista

stuffed peppers on plate

Once your timer dings, remove the peppers from the oven and spoon the tomato sauce over the top. Now, you can plate and serve as you wish. Thanks to the delicious filling, these peppers are great for a meal, and Brookes gives a great pairing suggestion. She recommends serving these peppers "with a fresh green salad or tortilla chips and guac."

Be sure to keep your leftovers! "They should keep well up to 2 days in the fridge. Reheat in microwave or oven," Brookes shares.

Gemista (Stuffed Peppers) Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 large beef tomatoes
  • 4 large green bell peppers
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ⅓ cup tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper, plus more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 zucchini, finely diced
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed, divided
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ¾ cup white rice
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
  • ½ cup vegetable stock
  • ½ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

Directions

  1. Carefully slice the tops off of the tomatoes and peppers and set them aside. Hollow out the peppers and discard the middles. Use a knife/spoon to scoop out the tomato flesh and put this straight into the bowl of a food processor.
  2. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the tomato puree, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt, white pepper, and sugar to the food processor with the tomato flesh. Blitz until smooth.
  3. Pour the tomato sauce into the bottom of a large roasting pan and place the hollowed out peppers and tomatoes on top.
  4. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, high-sided frying pan. Fry the onion, zucchini and carrot on a medium setting until softened — about 10 minutes. Then add the remaining 2 cloves of crushed garlic and cook for another minute, stirring constantly.
  5. Add the ground beef and turn up the heat to high. Break it apart with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Keep going until it’s completely cooked through and slightly browned.
  6. Add the rice, oregano, canned tomatoes, and vegetable stock. Stir well and once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and leave to cook for 10 minutes. While the filling cooks, preheat the oven to 400 F.
  7. Stir through the chopped parsley and some salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
  8. Spoon the filling mixture into the prepared peppers and tomatoes, then place the tops back on.
  9. Cover the roasting tray with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for another 40 minutes.
  10. Serve with the tomato sauce spooned over the top of the peppers and tomatoes.