A new year is all about trying new things. When I saw these large and beautifully colorful bell peppers at the local supermarket, I knew I had to use them for a recipe here on the blog. I realized that I’ve never made stuffed peppers before, and honestly I don’t know why it has taken me so long. I have always loved making stuffed mushrooms, but I think these mouth-watering stuffed peppers, overflowing with healthy quinoa and spicy Italian sweet sausage, have become my new favorite.
I have a confession to make. I’ve actually never been a very big fan of peppers. I’m the person who usually scoops out all that lovely stuffing and leaves the skeleton of the baked pepper behind. But this time I decided to take just a little bite. And I couldn’t help myself. I had to eat more. They were so sweet and juicy. How could I have been blinded all these years to the wonderfulness that is peppers? If you’ve never been a huge fan of peppers before either, I warn you that these stuffed peppers might convert you. 😉
To stuff the peppers, I adapted the filling that I usually use for my stuffed mushrooms. I decided to replace the gluten-free breadcrumbs with quinoa in order to give the stuffing a nutritious twist (Bob’s Red Mill organic whole grain quinoa is gluten free). Quinoa is pretty much one of the gluten-free diet’s best friends. It is the seed of a plant related to spinach and is often considered a superfood as it has many powerful health benefits. High in protein and low in calories, quinoa is said to help lower blood pressure, suppress appetite (good for those who are dieting), and slow the aging process. And, best of all, it is gluten-free. Because it has a consistency similar to rice, it can be used as a substitute for many grains.
Quinoa is naturally coated with bitter saponins so it needs to be rinsed thoroughly before being cooked. The night before stuffing the peppers, I soaked a cup of quinoa in a bowl. The next day when I was ready to make the stuffing, I stirred and drained the seeds in a fine mesh strainer and then rinsed them several times. Quinoa has a pleasant texture but not a very strong taste, so I cooked the seeds on the stove with two cups of chicken broth to give them added flavor.
The quinoa is complemented beautifully by the spices of the sweet Italian sausage. A delicious stuffing is all about the perfect balance of flavors. I mixed in diced mushrooms and garlic cloves, green onions, and grated parmesan cheese. Then just three ounces of the special ingredient I use in all my stuffing recipes: creamy mascarpone cheese. It adds a hint more sweetness and holds the stuffing together.
These stuffed peppers are so wonderfully satisfying. After baking in the oven for about an hour, the stuffing is beautifully crispy and the peppers are warm and tender. I made these peppers as an appetizer, but you could also serve them as a deliciously healthy main course. I can’t wait to make these again, and I’m already thinking about what new ingredients I can add to the stuffing. Enjoy!
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- 1 cup Bob's Red Mill quinoa (this is gluten free), soaked overnight
- 2 cups gluten free chicken broth, Herb Ox or Pacific are both good
- 4 peppers
- 1 16 ounce package ground Premio sweet Italian sausage
- 4 ounces mushrooms
- ¼ cup scallions
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3 ounces marscarpone cheese
- ⅓ cup parmesan cheese, grated
- salt and pepper, to taste
- ½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- The night before, measure 1 cup of quinoa and place in a bowl of 1-2 cups of water, cover to soak.
- After quinoa has soaked overnight, stir and drain through a fine mesh strainer. Rinse and repeat at least two more times until the water is clear.
- Boil 2 cups of chicken broth and add the soaked quinoa. Return to a boil, cover and reduce to medium heat. Simmer about 12-15 minutes until broth is absorbed. Fluff and let stand for 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350℉
- Meanwhile chop mushroom, scallions, and garlic. Add a little water to a pan, and follow the instructions for cooking sausage on the package. Crumble up the sausage with a spatula while it sautés, about 15 minutes. Stir in the chopped mushroom and continue to sauté with the sausage, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, green onions and cooked quinoa. Continue to sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the marscarpone cheese and stir well, continuing to sauté, until creamy and melted into the stuffing. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add parmesan and stir. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Place peppers in a slightly oiled baking dish and stuff equally, gently packing down the stuffing.
- Bake for 1 hour until stuffing is browned.
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- Gluten Free Dining at Colors Restaurant, NYC - January 28, 2015