There are plenty of dishes out there that I like as an idea, but the traditional execution of the dish always seems to fall short of its real potential. Things like tuna noodle casserole sound great, but the common recipe for it – using salty yet bland creamed soup and frozen peas and carrots – make for a sad expanse of white goopy mess. Stuffed bell peppers are another one of those dishes that is great in concept but disappointing in its common iteration of ground beef, rice, and tomatoes seasoned with pre-packaged taco seasoning and top with cheese. Still, I love the idea of adding vegetables to my diet by stuffing them with delicious fillings, plus, these leftovers are perfect meals for lunch later in the week. Clearly, this classic dish is primed for a makeover. Since is is still early in the new year and many of us are still focused on our resolutions, a vegetarian risotto with the tangy bite of goat cheese could be rich and tasty, but still healthy.
A few tips for making your stuffed peppers:
- When selecting your peppers at the grocery store, pick peppers with relatively even bottoms so they can stand on their own.
- I like to put my goat cheese in the freezer for 45 minutes or so. When it is partially frozen it is much easier to crumble into small pieces. This ensures that the goat cheese touches all of the risotto.
Spinach and Risotto Stuffed Peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 cup arborio rice
4-5 cups chicken or vegetable stock, kept simmering
1 ¼ dry white wine (I used leftover Prosecco)
3 cups thinly slice spinach
3.5 ounces (approximate) goat cheese
4 red/yellow/orange bell peppers
4 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1) Begin by prepping your ingredients: put the stock in a sauce pan and begin to heat it. Dice your shallot and thinly slice your spinach. Crumble/chop the goat cheese to stir into the risotto later.
2) Heat the olive oil in a medium sized sauce pan for 1 minute over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add arborio rice and sautee for about 4 minutes, until some of the grains of rice just begin to show a bit of color.
3) Add 2 ladles of hot stock to the rice and stir constantly until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add half a cup of the dry wine and stir until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Add a ladle of stock, then another half cup of wine, ladle of stock, and the last of the wine; stirring between each addition of liquid.
4) Continue to add the stock a ladle at a time until just before the rice is really close to done. You don’t want to cook it to completely done, as it will cook some in the oven.
5) Stir in the thinly sliced spinach and goat cheese until the cheese is completely melted and spread throughout the risotto.
6) Cut the tops of off 3-4 medium to large red, yellow, or orange bell peppers. I had bought 3 peppers, but ended up having enough risotto to fill another pepper if I had one. Using a sharp parring knife cut out he seeds and white membrane ribs from the peppers.
7) Fill each pepper to the top with risotto and sprinkle with about a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese. Place inside a dutch oven or baking pan and replace the top of the pepper.
8) Bake in an oven preheated to 375°F for 25-30 minutes, or until the peppers are tender.