I came up with this recipe the other day when I was swimming laps. I really, really wanted Italian food, which I haven’t had much of lately since we have been trying to watch carbs (and yes, Brad is doing much better than me.) I decided to make some meatballs with marinara sauce and let Brad just skip the pasta. But then it hit me – why not make meatball sub stuffed bell peppers, the perfect dish to satisfy my Italian cravings while watching our carbs.
What’s cool about this recipe is that you can cheat and use bottled marinara — there are several halfway decent brands on your grocer’s shelves, just pick your favorite, but make sure it’s a chunky variety. You can also use prepackaged meatballs instead of making your own. I recommend getting these from the meat section of your favorite store – they’re usually better than frozen. These two steps will cut your prep time down to a fraction.
Personally, I like to make my own meatballs and sauce, because I make extra to freeze for later, which saves time in the long run. Plus, I just think mine tastes better, in my (not so) humble opinion.
- 3 to 4 green bell peppers
- 1 quart chunky marinara sauce (recipe below)
- 18 to 20 Italian meatballs (recipe below), sliced into thirds or fourths
- 8 ounces part skim mozzarella cheese, cubed
- 1 cup Parmesan/Romano cheese, divided in half
- 6-8 sprigs fresh oregano for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray a large (9″x13″) casserole dish with baking spray.
Slice green peppers in half, remove membranes and seeds, place in a large pot of water and boil for 3 to 4 minutes.
Immediately place peppers in a large colander and rinse with cold water. Place peppers on paper towels to drain, and pat dry.
Put the peppers in the casserole dish. Spread a small layer of marina sauce on the bottom of each pepper, add meatball slices, and top with more of the marinara sauce.
Add the mozzarella cubes (I like to press these in as much as possible) and top with more meatball slices.
Cover with more marinara.
Top with half of the Parmesan/Romano cheese.
Bake for 25 minutes, until the cheese is nice and brown.
Let stand for about 5 minutes.
Garnish with warm marinara (if desired), the rest of the cheese, and oregano sprigs.
Kel’s Chunky Marinara Sauce Ingredients
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup celery, diced
- 1 cup sweet onion, diced
- 1 cup carrots, diced
- 4 large garlic cloves, pressed
- 1 can (28 oz.) whole plum tomatoes
- 1 can (28 oz.) tomato sauce
- ½ cup good red wine
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
- 1 teaspoon ground thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon sugar (to cut the acidity of the tomatoes)
- Sea salt, to taste
- Fresh ground pepper, to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the celery, onion, carrots and minced garlic and simmer for 7-8 minutes, until the veggies are soft.
Place the whole tomatoes in a large pot and break apart. Add the tomato sauce, wine, Italian seasoning, garlic salt, oregano and thyme, and blend together well.
Mix in the sautéed veggies. Add the sugar and the bay leaves. Simmer for as long as you like. Actually, it’s ideal to make this the day before to let the flavors intensify. Just reheat the sauce when you’re ready to make the stuffed peppers.
Kel’s Italian Meatball Ingredients (Makes 28-30 meatballs)
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 lb. ground hot Italian sausage
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup of fresh bread crumbs (I used La Brea’s Three Cheese Semolina, available at Harris Teeter)
- ¾ cup Parmesan/Romano cheese, grated
- 1 cup sweet onion, diced small
- 3 large garlic cloves, pressed
- 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 F. Cover a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Shape the mixture into medium-sized meatballs and place on the baking sheet.
Bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes or so. Drain on paper towels to absorb any grease.
Freeze any leftover meatballs to use later – you’ll be glad to have them on hand.