Summer, summer, summer ☀️ ☀️ ☀️ ☀️… what to cook this hot summer? When you want something tasty and filling, Sicilian stuffed peppers are the ideal choice for a light summer dish. They can be stuffed (and cooked on a cool night) ahead of time and reheated or served cold or at room temperature. They can easily be doubled and tripled for a large group.
Growing up, stuffed peppers were a family staple. Relatives and friends would grow bell peppers in their New Jersey (a.k.a Garden State) gardens and they would end up in all manner of summer recipes including raw peppers in wonderful summer rice salads. I personally love that summertime crunch.
I only remember green bell peppers in my youth, but red and yellow peppers are sweeter and prettier. In fact, most green peppers 🫑 are on their way to another color if you let them ripen on the plant long enough. Perhaps my family and neighbors were impatient, but green peppers are bitter compared to their grown-up red and yellow older relatives, which may be why some people—including my sister Michele—dislike green peppers!
As usual with Italian cooking, the quality of the ingredients in this recipe is everything. In particular, try and find colorful peppers that can be sliced in half from top to bottom so that each half lays flat in a baking dish: peppers with four “quadrants”are easiest to divide in equal halves. Also use good-quality anchovies, capers and cheese to pump up the flavors.
There are many heirloom stuffed pepper recipes around. There are also two rival camps when it comes to stuffing peppers: cutting the top off, cleaning, stuffing and recapping each pepper whole, or my personal favorite of cutting each in half top to bottom, laying the halves on their sides and stuffing. This approach makes for smaller individual portions that are easier to eat.
This Sicilian version is lighter than a pepper stuffed with rice, ground meats and tomato sauce. It skews Sicilian because of the sweet and sour mixture plus some saltiness and savory tastes to round it out. The flavor combo of the sweet golden raisins, sour capers and salty anchovies is a classic Sicilian flavor mix that you will also find in rolled meats and fish dishes like involtini and vegetable dishes like caponata.
So get yourself some beautiful peppers and make this super easy summer time dish. Serve the peppers an appetizer, a side dish or as a main course with a fresh green salad!Print
- 2 colorful (red, orange, yellow) bell peppers, chosen so they will lay flat when cut in half top to bottom
- ½ cup golden raisins
- 2 tbsp brined capers
- 4 oil-packed anchovies
- 10 basil leaves
- 4 ripe plum tomatoes
- ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Olive oil
- Prepare the stuffing. Select a medium bowl to hold the stuffing.
- Place the raisins in a small separate bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for at least 15 minutes or until they are cool enough to handle. Drain and squeeze out any water. Rough chop and place in the stuffing bowl.
- Drain the capers, rough chop and add to the stuffing bowl. Rough chop the anchovies and add to bowl. Stack and slice the basil leaves into ribbons and add to bowl. Slice and chop the tomatoes into small chunks and add to bowl.
- Finally, add the breadcrumbs and cheese to bowl. Mix together and taste. Add salt and pepper as you like or more of any individual ingredient. Add a tbsp of olive oil to moisten the mixture; toss to combine.
- Prepare the peppers. Select a baking dish to hold the pepper halves.
- Slice each pepper in half top to bottom so that each pepper half will lay flat in the baking dish. Clean out the seeds and the membranes. Trim away the white mass that is just under the stem. Rinse out each half and lay each half cut side down on a towel to dry.
- When dry, hold each pepper half over the bowl with the stuffing, stuff the peppers with the prepared mixture filing in the corners of the pepper but don’t pack the peppers. Place each pepper in the baking dish. At this point, you can cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate until later for baking (up to 3 days).
- Preheat oven to 400℉. Drizzle a little olive oil over each pepper. Add a few tbsps water to the baking dish to create steam. Grease the underside of a piece of foil with olive oil using a pastry brush or a paper towel.
- Cover the dish holding the peppers and seal tightly. Bake for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes to brown the peppers.
- Serve hot, room temperature or cold. If you are going to refrigerate the peppers for later, allow them to cool to room temp before placing in the refrigerator.