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A few weeks ago, I drove Jack’s mother (our beloved Nanny) to a family baby shower. During our ride, Nanny mentioned that she had recently given her Italian Stuffed Peppers recipe to my nephew Kevin, who had moved across the country to live in California.
Anytime there is talk about family recipes being shared – my ears perk up! And in this case – for years – I’ve heard my husband Jack talk very fondly about Nanny’s Italian Stuffed Peppers. So of course, I asked for the recipe too! Jack grew up with this wonderful recipe, and anytime he walked in the door and smelled the aroma of green bell peppers frying in the kitchen – he knew he was home, and he knew what was going to be served for dinner.
This Italian Stuffed Peppers recipe was passed down to Nanny by her Italian mother-in-law. (Jack jokes that his grandmother probably said something to Nanny along the lines of, “You wanna marry my son, then you gotta to learn how to cook my stuffed peppers for him!”) 😉
Nanny’s Italian Stuffed Peppers are unlike most other stuffed peppers recipes, where instead of a rice and beef mixture inside the bell pepper – the peppers are filled with a super flavorful bread stuffing as well as a little tomato sauce! The flavors are unique and incredibly delicious, with a slightly sweet, moist bread stuffing that has golden raisins in the mix as well as Italian bread crumbs, Romano cheese and other seasonings. The bell peppers are caramelized – first from frying them on top of the stove, then even more as they bake until soft and tender.
Even now, when these Italian Stuffed Peppers came out of the oven, Jack said to me, “Smells like home!”
But – here’s proof that you’re never too old to learn from your Mom. And like many family recipes, sometimes you need a few extra pointers from the expert! After our first attempt at recreating Nanny’s Italian Stuffed Peppers and following her recipe, Jack brought some of the peppers over to his parents’ house so Nanny could critique them. She told Jack that his peppers were too big (you want to select smaller bell peppers) and stuffed too densely (don’t over pack the stuffing in the peppers). She also told him that he didn’t fry them long enough, and gave him a few additional pointers which we’ve included in the recipe below. (But she did tell Jack, “Good first effort!”) 🙂
So taking all of the constructive criticism, Jack made batch two (photographed here in this post) which was much closer to Nanny’s version of Italian Stuffed Peppers – and it got thumbs up. Yeah!
- 5–6 green bell peppers, see note
- ½ pound Italian bread, crusts removed, cut into small pieces
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 ½ cups golden raisins
- 2 whole eggs, slightly beaten
- ¾ cup Romano cheese, grated, plus more for serving
- ½ cup Italian bread crumbs
- 2 ½ cups tomato sauce, divided
- 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- Cut tops off of peppers and remove all seeds and ribs, set aside.
- Place bread in a large bowl and cover with milk, making sure the bread gets all soaked. Let sit 10 minutes.
- With your hands or a wooden spoon, mash bread and milk to form a thick wet mash.
- Add raisins, eggs, cheese, bread crumbs, ½ cup of the tomato sauce, garlic powder, Italian seasoning and black pepper and mix to combine.
- Spoon a tablespoon of oil in each pepper and swirl around, then place a tablespoon of sauce in the bottom of each cavity.
- Divide the filling between the peppers, loosely packed.
- Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and add all but two tablespoons of the olive oil to the pan.
- Once hot, place peppers into oil on their sides and over 25-30 minutes, cook and turn until all of the skin has been browned, including the bottoms.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a casserole dish large enough to hold the peppers, place a cup of tomato sauce on the bottom and as each pepper is browned, place face up into the prepared casserole dish.
- Drizzle about a teaspoon of olive oil over each and top with the remaining sauce.
- Cover with parchment and foil and bake for one hour.
- Serve immediately with additional tomato sauce and grated Romano cheese.
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