The topic of stuffed peppers came up recently – a girlfriend said she was making them for the first time & I asked why she didn’t come to me for a recipe. Then I began searching for recipes for stuffed peppers – because I never had an actual recipe, per se, – it was just something you tossed together, often depending on what I had on hand.
My aunt has a recipe for Hungarian stuffed peppers that we put into the family cookbook and I dug around for some other recipes. Stuffed peppers, Hungarian or otherwise, is a most versatile recipe that you can make many different ways. In some recipes the peppers are parboiled first – I never did this. Ditto the rice. Why cook the rice beforehand when you don’t have to?
It seems to me that Stuffed Peppers have a Hungarian or German origin so I dug through some of my Hungarian cookbooks searching for recipes. However you make them, this is a most economical recipe when bell peppers are cheap and plentiful or you have a glut of them in your vegetable garden. We have a 99c store nearby and they sometimes have yellow, green, orange, or red peppers, about 3 to a package for 99 cents–I buy all the colors and spend an afternoon dicing them with my Vidalia onion chopper to keep available in the freezer. When you aren’t dicing up the entire pepper, always cut off the tops of the peppers, remove the seeds and membranes – and then finely dice the tops. Some of this can be mixed in with your ground beef (or chicken, turkey, or pork – whatever meat you are using)—the bits of peppers will give it more flavor. I just freeze all the remaining finely diced peppers for other recipes. Keep them tightly sealed in a zip lock bag in the freezer. They are great to toss into soups, such as Mexican Tortilla Soup, or you can toss a handful into a skillet of fried potatoes. Recently, the red bell peppers were on sale so I canned a dozen small jars (4 ounce size) of the chopped red bell peppers to make my own pimientos. They are also great to add to chicken or turkey enchiladas and the different colors make a dish look more attractive.
Did I ever tell you my stuffed pepper story? In Cincinnati in the 40s, 50s, 60s, bell peppers were called “Mangoes” (Long story, goes back a hundred years to pickled mangoes from India – anything stuffed was considered mangoed.) Well in 1962, now living in California, we became friends with this couple named Teresa & Jim –one day Teresa, asked what things I cooked for dinners and I mentioned “Stuffed Mangoes”.
“Really?” she asked “How do you make those?” and I proceeded to explain the recipe of using ground beef, uncooked rice, egg, salt and pepper, stuffing the peppers and cooking them in a tomato sauce gravy. She was completely baffled until we figured out, somehow, that MY “mango” was a bell pepper. I had never actually eaten a MANGO and didn’t know what one was—much less that it was a fruit. I never called a bell pepper a “mango” after that. I can still visit Cincinnati and hear people refer to bell peppers as “mangoes”. Incidentally, Teresa was a fantastic cook and my first introduction to “really good” cooking.
Here are some recipes for Hungarian Stuffed Peppers:
AUNT DOLLY’S HUNGARIAN STUFFED BELL PEPPERS
6 bell peppers
2 lbs ground chuck (or ground turkey or ground chicken)
1 cup cooked rice
1 /2 tsp paprika
1/8 to ¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp pepper
salt to taste
¾ cup chopped onion
2 tsp garlic powder
1 (28 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (18 oz) tomato paste & 1 can water equal to tomato paste
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt & pepper to taste
Pinch of ground allspice
2 tsp paprika
(If mix seems a little bitter add a small amount of sugar)
Pre cook sauce in pot on top of stove until it starts to boil; turn off and let set. Mix together ground meat, rice, eggs, onion and seasonings. Stuff the peppers. Extra meat can be used to make big meatballs. Dip the tops of the peppers in flour and sear on stove top in hot skillet with a little olive oil. Place stuffed peppers in deep casserole and pour sauce in almost to the top. Slow cook low temp 2 hours or longer at 300 degrees. These can be frozen and will keep in the freezer for up to a year. (I would cook them 3 or 4 hours on low if using a Crockpot).
Aunt Dolly’s original recipe was huge. We tried to pare it down for the family cookbook. I think you could easily halve the amounts but make the full amount of sauce (which is actually very good) and then freeze any left over sauce for another time. One of the secrets of a good Hungarian stuffed pepper sauce is paprika powdered spice. And to make it even better, make sure you buy some authentic Hungarian paprika. It makes all the difference in the world!
FROM AUNT BECKY’S RECIPE COLLECTION:
Sweet and Sour Stuffed Peppers
2 each sweet red and green (bell) peppers
1 pound ground chicken
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup quick cooking rice
¾ cup bottled sweet and sour sauce
¾ cup boiling water
¼ cup chopped water chestnuts
Slice off the tops of the bell peppers; reserve tops. Remove membranes, seeds and stems. Invert peppers on wax paper. Chop tops (you will need ½ cup; save rest for other use).
Saute chicken, chopped peppers, salt, ginger and black pepper in oil in saucepan 8 minutes or until no longer pink. Sprinkle in rice, add sauce and boiling water; stir; return to boiling; cover; remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in water chestnuts; turn into bowl. Wipe out pan. Add ½ cup water. Place steamer basket in pan. Divide chicken mixture among peppers. Place upright in basket. Cover; steam 10-15 minutes or until tender.
CINCINNATI VERSION STUFFED PEPPERS
1 LB ground beef (or turkey or chicken)
4 bell peppers
Ragu sauce or undiluted tomato soup
1 chopped onion
Preheat oven 375. Cut off tops of peppers; and remove seeds. Boil peppers in salted water 8-10 minutes (until tender) Prepare rice (2-3 servings). Brown meat and onion; drain. Combine meat and rice. Heat Ragu sauce. Fill peppers with meat mixture. Put peppers in pan and pour sauce over them. You can spoon some of the sauce on top of the peppers for more flavor. Bake at 375 15 minutes or until heated through.
STUFFED PEPPERS MY WAY
1-1 ½ lbs ground meat (beef, chicken, turkey)*
4-6 bell peppers (you can freeze leftover cooked stuffed peppers with sauce for another meal)
1 cup uncooked rice (about)
1 cup chopped onion (about)
1-2 eggs (depending on size. If extra large 1 should be enough)
Your favorite spaghetti sauce (I like 3 cheese but buy whatever you like). I probably used 2 jars.
Seasoning to taste (salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, a little paprika)
Cut the tops off the peppers. Remove seeds, membrane. Chop up the good part of the tops.
Mix together the finely chopped bell peppers (which can be any color you like), the uncooked rice, the chopped onion, egg and the meat. Add seasonings. Mix it up with your hands. If it seems a little dry add a little of the spaghetti sauce.
Now stuff the peppers. Put them into a deep casserole dish OR your crockpot. Pour the sauce over and around the peppers. Cover, either cook in the oven @ 350 degrees for 1-2 hours – or most of the day if you are cooking in the crockpot on low.
*this recipe works well with just about any kind of ground meat or poultry. I believe my mother made it with part ground beef, part pork. If you are counting calories, use ground chicken or turkey.
I found a great recipe for Hungarian Stuffed Peppers in a cookbook titles “COOKING WITH LOVE AND PAPRIKA, BY JOSEPH PASTERNAK. Here’s how you make
HUNGARIAN STUFFED PEPPERS IN TOMATO SAUCE (Toltott Paprika)
6-8 large green bell peppers
1 pound ground beef (should be lean)
1 pound ground pork
1 TBSP rice, boiled and drained
½ medium onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp pepper
½ tsp paprika
2 TBSP shortening
2 TBSP flout
1 1-qt, 14-oz can tomato juice
2 8-oz cans tomato sauce
2 TBSP sugar
Cut the stems from the green peppers, remove the seeds and membranes and parboil for 5 minutes in water to cover. Drain. Make a stuffing of the meat, rice, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and paprika. Taste to be sure it is well seasoned since a well seasoned mixture is very important to good stuffed peppers. Stuff the peppers with this mixture. Make a roux of the shortening (*you need something like a solid shortening, such as Crisco) and the flour. Let it brown slightly, then stir in the tomato juice and tomato sauce. Let the sauce come to a simmer and add the sugar and a little salt. Place the stuffed peppers upright, one next to the other, in a pan or pot (or deep Corning ware dish) that can be covered and pour the sauce over. Cook and cover over low heat on top of the stove for 1 ½ – 2 hours. Arrange the peppers on a serving platter and pour the sauce over them, then serve hot.
*Sandy’s Cooknote: if you don’t have any solid Crisco shortening, use butter. A little trick I learned years ago is mixing Crisco solid shortening and flour together—you just mix flour into about half a cup of Crisco until you can’t add any more flour – then mix in some Kitchen Bouquet—about a tablespoon or two. Mix well. Then just store this in a tightly covered jar with your spices; you will have a good roux ready to use at any time. This is great for making brown gravy.
From another authentic little book titled Hungarian Cookery Book by Karoly Gundel comes a recipe called “Stuffed Paprika” – paprika is the Hungarian word for pepper.
You will need
12 green peppers
1 lb juicy pork (best part of neck)*
2 oz. rice
1 oz onions
1 clove garlic
Cut the paprikas round the stalks with a sharp, pointed knife, and remove the stalks and seeds. Wash the paprikas and remove the inside ribs. Mince the pork and mix it with the onions and garlic which has been finely chopped and fried; to this add n egg, the rice (parboiled), pepper and salt. Stir the mixture well with a wooden spoon to distribute the ingredients evenly among the meat, and fill the paprikas with it. Put back the tops of the paprikas that were cut off with the stalks (but not the seeds) to make lids. Place the stuffed paprikas in a sauce pan; cover with tomato sauce, and let them simmer for about an hour and a half over a slow fire.
For the tomato sauce, make a delicately browned roux of 1½ ounce of lard and a tablespoon of flour. Add 10 gills** of tomato puree, stirring all the time and season with salt and a teaspoonful of sifted sugar. Serve the paprikas in a deep dish with the tomato sauce poured over them.
*You might want to consider a good ground sausage, such as Jimmy Dean brand for the pork. My brother uses ground pork, like Jimmy Dean brand, in his Cincinnati chili.
**A gill is an old measurement that equals ¼ of a pint. That would make a gill 4 ounces. Ten gills, then, would be equal to 40 ounces or five 8-ounce cups of tomato puree.
Another Hungarian stuffed pepper recipe was found in Jolie Gabor’s Family Cookbook, published in 1962. Jolie was the mother of the famous Gabor sisters.
To make Jolie’s Stuffed Green Peppers you will need:
6 medium sized green bell peppers
1 lb chopped beef
½ tsp baking powder
2 slices bread, softened in wine
1 TBSP catsup
½ cup boiled rice
1 cup stewed tomatoes
1 cup tomato puree
¼ cup sherry wine
¼ cup water
2 TBSP lemon juice
1 TBSP brown sugar
4 to 6 gingersnaps
Wash and dry firm green peppers; cut off stems and removed seeds and pulp with a sharp knife. Parboil peppers in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes.*. Remove them from water and drain well. Sponge them dry.
Place chopped beef in a mixing bowl; add baking powder**, softened bread, egg, catsup and boiled rice. Toss with a fork until completely blended. Stuff peppers with meat mixture, rounding the mixture at the top.
Heat stewed tomatoes, puree, sherry wine, water, lemon juice and brown sugar. Place stuffed peppers in an upright position into the hot tomato sauce. Cover, cook gently for an hour. Soften gingersnaps*** in a little warm water; stir them into the sauce. Spoon sauce over each pepper and serve very hot. Serves 6.
*Sandy’s Cooknote: Personally, I think 10 minutes is way too long to parboil the peppers. I wouldn’t pre cook them any longer than 5 minutes.
**Sandy’s Cooknote: This is the first time I have found baking powder in a stuffed pepper recipe. I can’t imagine what the purpose is, but if you are being true to the recipe, go ahead and add it. Couldn’t hurt!
***Sandy’s Cooknote: As for the gingersnaps – a lot of European recipes have gingersnaps in the recipe to achieve a particular flavor.
No time to make stuffed peppers? Here is a recipe for UNSTUFFED PEPPERS:
2 cups uncooked instant brown rice
12 oz. lean ground beef
1 tsp olive oil
1 each red and yellow pepper, cut in strips (or use what ever colors you can find)
2 cups bottled marinara sauce
1 tsp fennel seeds (optional)
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Bring 1¾ cups water to a boil in a medium size saucepan. Add rice, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand until ready to serve, at least 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add ground beef and cook. Breaking up clumps with a wooden spoon, about 3 minutes or until meat is no longer pink. Remove to a plate; set aside.
Heat oil in skillet; add peppers and sauté over medium high heat 3 minutes or until lightly charred in a few places. Add sauce and fennel seeds, if using. Bring to a simmer; cover and cook 3 minutes or until peppers are tender.
Stir in beef; heat through. Spoon rice on serving plates; top with beef mixture and sprinkle with cheese.
Before I finish this post, I wanted to share with you a recipe for making meatless stuff peppers. This is called
HERB STUFFED PEPPERS
4 large green or red bell peppers
1 cups cooked rice
1 small onion, minced
1 can tomato sauce
1 TBSP parsley
1 tsp oregano
1 TBSP basil
1 tsp granulated garlic
½ cup cheddar cheese, grated
Cut the stem out of the top of each pepper. Remove all seeds and core. Wash peppers. Place them into a pot of boiling water and cook for 10 minutes. Drain. Saute onions, adding tomato sauce and herbs. Simmer 10 minutes. Add cooked rice and cheddar cheese, mixing together well. Place peppers in a baking dish and stuff them with the rice mixture. Bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes.
A final word (or two) about making stuffed peppers. If you are on a tight budget, you can make these using less meat (say half a pound of ground beef or chicken) but increase the amount of rice. Or make them with another kind of grain, such as couscous. Add more onion or other vegetables. And I have stated earlier – I never pre-cook the rice when I am making stuffed peppers. I just think that’s extra unnecessary work. When I was making stuffed peppers for a family of four sons, I wanted to get everything cooked as quickly and efficiently as possible. I might make up the peppers the night before and put them into a crockpot to cook on low, in the morning. Or, throw it all together and into a hot oven as soon as I got home from work. They could be baking while I made a salad and maybe some mashed potatoes to go with the stuffed peppers (my children loved mashed potatoes with the tomato sauce gravy). You just have to make sure the rice is well cooked before serving them—so use Minute rice; it cooks faster. Much as I enjoy cooking, I don’t believe in making extra work for myself—and I don’t have a dishwasher. I AM the dishwasher.
At a later date if you are interested, I will share some other stuffed pepper recipes that I have culled from my recipe card files.