A good stuffed pepper can be very comforting on a cold day. Not only are they filling, but they are healthy, versatile and delicious. I was recently on a trip and a friend of mine, Mark, stuffed his peppers with orzo pasta. It was delicious, so I thought I would come up with my own version of what I ate on what turned out to be a great vacation.
4 bell peppers, any color
1 cup orzo pasta
1 lb ground beef
2 cloves garlic
6 Roma tomatoes
½ medium onion
1 tbsp basil
1 tbsp thyme
2 tbsp fresh mint, finely diced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 ¼ cup Asiago cheese, grated
1 ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
4 cups chicken broth
extra virgin olive oil, as needed
In a large sauce pan on medium heat, pour in enough oil to coat the bottom. When the oil is hot, start cooking the ground beef. When the meat is about halfway cooked, dump in the onions and garlic and cook until the meat is fully cooked.
Next, stir in the basil, thyme, mint, salt, pepper, and tomatoes. Cover the mixture for about 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft, stirring a couple of times.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
While the beef mixture is cooking, bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium sauce pan on high heat. Cook the orzo in the broth for about four minutes. The orzo will not be fully cooked. With a sieve, separate the broth and orzo. Pour the broth into a 3-quart baking dish and set aside.
By this time, the ground beef mixture should be fully cooked. Add the orzo to the beef mixture and stir until combined. Add 1 cup of each cheese and stir until the cheese fully combines with the beef mixture.
Cut the tops off of the peppers, deseed, and remove the ribs. Place each pepper into the dish with the chicken broth. Fill up each pepper with the ground beef and orzo mixture. Cover the dish with foil and place in the oven and cook for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, coat the top of each pepper with the remaining cheeses, and cook, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes. The peppers will be done after this step.
The spice combination really set off this dish. I am not incredibly familiar with mint but it was a nice touch and really rounded off the flavoring well. The beef and orzo’s textures mesh nicely. The orzo soaked up all of the flavors adding more deliciousness to the dish. Mix these flavors with the onion and peppers and you have a scrumptious, filling meal.
To reduce the likelihood of the pepper becoming over soggy, remove it from the broth for storage. Even when doing this, you may still experience sogginess. The filling stays true for a couple of days though and retains flavor very well.