Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cheese Stuffed Sweet Peppers with Marinara Sauce

If you are not a member of and love to cook, you should be.  This marinara sauce is, "Hands-Down," the best I have ever made.  This would also be an EXCELLENT pizza sauce!  The recipe came to me through weeks ago.  I bought the ingredients last week then got busy and forgot about it until cleaning out the fridge for Easter and said, "Oh yeah...that's why I bought that!"  Funny thing is, I had forwarded it my Mom in New Mexico.  So I called her yesterday afternoon on my birthday and I tell her what I'm making for dinner.  She starts giggling and I know something is up!  She's making the same thing at the same time and has also changed up her recipe a little!  HA!  Also, for my vegetarian friends, there is no reason you need to add meat to this dish.   It would be just as good without meat.  The original recipe called for ground turkey.  I didn't want turkey, I wanted the Isineros (I know I'm spelling that wrong) organic Italian Chicken Sausage.  That was a great substitute!

We both agree that the recipe needs to be served over pasta!  She has whole wheat penne and I have the regular...check!  We used a different mix of cheeses, but we both agree this one is a keeper!  When I make this again....and I will, I would add mushrooms to the list of ingredients.

This is what you will need, don't freak out, I know it looks like a lot, but it's really manageable and easy to prepare.

1 lb. Isineros Italian chicken sausage
8 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. dried basil  (HA!  I used my own home-grown Queen of Sheba basil)
1 tsp. Mrs. Dash Tomato and Basil (I did buy this and use it and am glad I did)
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. black pepper
2 cans (15 oz) diced tomatoes with oregano, basil and garlic
4 oz can tomato paste
2 cups fresh, diced tomatoes
1 TBSP sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Stuffed Peppers:
about 14 mini bell peppers (I get them at Sam's Club)
16 oz light ricotta (I used 15 oz. of Greek yogurt)
8 oz shredded provolone cheese
6 oz grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg

Dice your onion and garlic.  Cook garlic and onion with the chicken sausage in a Dutch oven pot with about 1 TBSP olive oil.  Cook until onions are tender.  Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and fresh tomatoes.  Add the dry seasonings, sugar and lemon juice.  Simmer 45 minutes.

Now mix together the yogurt or ricotta, provolone and most of the Parmesan and egg (save about 1/2 cup of asiago or Parmesan to top AFTER it has baked. 

Cut off the tops of the peppers and remove the seeds and veins.  Stuff with the cheese mixture.

Ladle 1/2 of the marinara on the bottom of a baking dish, top with stuffed peppers, ladle the other 1/2 of marinara on top of that.  I always have left over cheese mix....just dollop that on top of the marinara and spread it over gently...a little more cheese never hurts and who wants to waste?  Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes.  Now cook your penne pasta.  Reduce the heat on the peppers to 350 and continue cooking for another 20 minutes or until peppers are soft.  The pasta and peppers will be ready at the same time.

 By the way, this isn't important, but this is my FAVORITE kitchen tool!  I bought it over 25 years ago at a store in Alamogordo that doesn't even exist anymore.  It's the most useful tool in the kitchen and I'd be lost without it.

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