If a man cannot or will not cook, he is not a man. All REAL men – manly men, if you will – know how to cook, and by cook I don’t mean scurry around a studio kitchen yelling “BAM!” and cooking stuff most ordinary chefs don’t cook, like that wretched little Emeril does on his stupid Food Network show. Honestly…what kind of serious chef has his own studio band, complete with an African-American Doc Severinsen? I learned to cook because my mother – God rest her soul – was a superb cook. When I moved out and lived on my own, I had no choice but to teach myself the arcane ways of the kitchen. And now I happily pass what I have learned along to you, gentle reader.
My late mother made the best stuffed peppers I have ever tasted. Her recipe called for green bell peppers and long grain rice; I changed it a bit to include red bell peppers and risotto. I’m sure Mom would have loved it. I know you will.
½ cup risotto
2 tbsp butter
1 cup vegetable broth
¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
4 large red bell peppers
¾ pound ground chuck
½ pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
½ cup beef broth
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp ea: ground black pepper, oregano and thyme
½ cup grated Parmagiano and Romano cheeses, equal parts
¼ cup pignoli nuts
1 large can (28 oz) tomato puree mixed with 2 small cans Italian tomato paste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the tops off of the peppers and remove the seeds and ribs inside.
In a medium sauce pan, melt butter on medium heat until foaming subsides. Add risotto and saute for three or four minutes. Add vegetable broth, cover pan and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Transfer risotto to a large mixing bowl, add the parsley and stir thoroughly.
In a separate bowl, mix together the beef and pork. Heat a large cast iron skillet until rocket hot and then brown the meat, being careful not to overcrowd the skillet, as this will create steam that keeps the meat from browning. For best results, brown the meat in two or three batches. Transfer meat to the mixing bowl that contains the risotto.
After the last of the meat has been removed from the skillet, pour off all of the accumulated fat from the skillet and return it to the stove. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion along with a few tablespoons of water – there will be enough fat left in the pan to sweat the onion until it’s translucent. Add the garlic and stir for a minute more. Add the beef broth and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any brown bits. Then add the salt, pepper and spices. Saute until the water evaporates and then transfer to the mixing bowl. Combine with the meat/risotto mixture and then add the grated cheese. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly and then stuff the mixture into the peppers.
Pour the tomato sauce into the bottom of a casserole dish large enough to hold all four peppers. Place the peppers in the dish along with any extra sausages. Cover it and bake in the oven for 1-½ hours. Remove the cover, spoon some of the sauce over the tops of the stuffed peppers, followed by a generous sprinkling of grated cheese. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
To plate the peppers, very gently remove from the casserole dish using tongs and supporting the pepper underneath with a large spoon. Place the pepper on the plate and slice in half with a knife from top to bottom. Spoon a little bit of the sauce over each half.
Serve with salad and warm Italian bread.