I have already told you that in my family there are a few culinary dogmas that have to be met and that characterize our lives since childhood. In addition to the dogma referred to legumes, you have to observe the one about stuffed vegetables, one of the main dishes I truly adore in summer, a dish able to sketch – with vibrant colours and entangling aromas – many evenings spent chatting around a table under a ceiling of olive branches and stars piercing the black velvety sky.
You deeply sense the weight of tradition with stuffed vegetables, of how things should be done, but you can also appreciate the confidence that a combination of ingredients studied and refined through years of tests and trials can give you in the kitchen.
The rules at home are very simple. Stuffed eggplants? No doubt, make them with minced meat and tomatoes, an ever since true statement, as it is true that Christmas falls on December 25 each year. Stuffed zucchini? What a question?! Fill them with tuna and breadcrumbs, a combination that always works and that every summer shows up in the kitchen as fireflies do in the fields. Stuffed tomatoes? Cook them with a fresh cheese and basil, or bake them with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs and capers. Stuffed peppers? Use rice, absolutely rice, a neutral base that can be varied as desired with the addition of some ingredients that give character and flavour to the dish.
These are the rules that give enough self-assurance to those who approach for the first time a recipe, as to lead them to add a touch of creativity to the recipe. Besides the rules, then comes the trial, which grows and gains confidence because it has years of efforts, trials and errors under its belt.
Stuffed bell peppers
- 4 red or yellow bell peppers, medium size
- 300 g Parboiled rice
- 120 g pancetta, cubed
- 200 g fresh pecorino, or Asiago, Emmenthal ...
- 2 tablespoons grated aged pecorino cheese, or Parmigiano, Grana, aged ricotta ...
- 2 eggs
- A few leaves basil, parsley, mint ...
- ½ white onion
- 2 ripe San Marzano tomatoes
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Wash the bell peppers and remove the top part, then deseed them.
- Cook the rice in boiling salted water according to cooking times. Drain and cool it down under running water.
- Brown the cubed pancetta in a pan for a few minute, then add it to the already cold rice, along with the melted fat in the pan.
- Add the diced pecorino, the grated aged pecorino, the beaten eggs and the chopped fresh herbs to the rice and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper.
- Stuff the bell peppers with the seasoned rice and sprinkle some breadcrumbs on top.
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- In a cast iron pot or in a thick bottomed pot sauté a finely chopped onion with some extra virgin olive oil, then add the chopper tomatoes and cook until soft.
- Arrange the peppers into the pan and cook for a few minutes to brown them. Pour in one glass of warm water and put the pan into the oven.
- Cook for about 40 minutes, then turn the oven to grill, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the tomatoes and grill them for about 15 minutes, until slightly golden.
- Remove the peppers from the oven, garnish with a few leaves of fresh basil and serve them basted with their cooking liquid.
Tasting test. The winning flavour of the whole recipe is the cooking liquid made of olive oil, vegetable stock and onion, as it is cooked slowly and blends with the flavour of the pepper. When you pour a few tablespoons of cooking liquid over the peppers before serving them, all dormant flavours and aromas awaken and revitalize the plate, making this simple stuffed vegetable one of the most representative recipes of my summer.