Packed peppers pack a peck of pleasure


Take three very common ingredients, combine them in a new way and voila, a tasty new dish that's sure to please.

Bell peppers, spaghetti with sauce and grated cheese take an inside out turn when the spaghetti actually becomes the stuffing for the peppers.

This treatment was inspired by a chef in Italy who went to a good deal more effort than we're proposing here. He roasted the whole peppers first and then peeled them. He added anchovies, bread crumbs, lots of olive oil and lots of baking time.

This streamlined and calorie-trimmed version fits beautifully into our Fast & Fresh theme. The microwave technique makes a slow-cooking recipe ready to eat in less than 20 minutes. Keep this recipe in mind when you have plenty of leftover spaghetti and sauce. The sauce can include meat or vegetables and a basic marinara will work just fine as well.

For the bell peppers, use whichever color you prefer. The normally pricey red and yellow bells seem to go on sale more frequently these days and have a sweeter flavor than the green bells.

The salad bar of your local supermarket comes to the rescue for supplying a fulfilling salad. Load it up with crunchy vegetables, nuts and croutons that will nicely enhance the soft-stuffed peppers.

For dessert, try a quick and scrumptious ice cream sandwich that will be a treat for everyone. The small round sandwiches are made by splitting some puffy Italian style cookies, called Anginetti by Stella D'oro. The cookies may sound exotic, but they've been around on supermarket shelves since I was a kid. Just add a heaping tablespoon of your favorite ice cream or frozen yogurt to the bottom half and add the cookie top to make a sandwich. Make a few sandwiches at a time and then freeze quickly. The cookies will never become break-your-teeth hard in the freezer. If the Italian style cookies aren't available, try some flat oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies. Get the dessert in the freezer before starting dinner.

Spaghetti Stuffed Bell Peppers

Serves 4

4 large bell peppers, color of your choice

about 6 cups leftover spaghetti (with meat or without)

4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

For each bell pepper, cut one lengthwise slit from stem to bottom. Open pepper and scoop out seeds with a spoon. Place peppers in a large Pyrex pie plate, cover with plastic wrap and microwave 4 to 6 minutes on 100 percent power, rotating after two minutes. Peppers should have softened, but not collapsed.

Leave the peppers in the Pyrex plate. With the cut side up, gently squeeze each pepper to open and fill with spaghetti until full and a bit overflowing. Sprinkle the exposed spaghetti with Parmesan cheese. Repeat this with each pepper.

Cover the stuffed peppers loosely with the plastic wrap and microwave again for 8 to 12 minutes, rotating after four minutes. The spaghetti should be hot in the center. Serve immediately, HTC allowing one stuffed pepper per person.

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