I was absolutely delighted last night to receive a text message from a dear friend of mine, Kate. She was writing to let me know that she’s been loving my recipes and can’t wait to try some of them but also wanted to know if I had a recipe for stuffed capsicums.
Well, lucky for Kate I love a challenge and love capsicums!
They’re actually a lot easier than one might think… All you really need to do is make your favourite bolognaise or chunky pasta sauce and then cut your capsicums just right and stuff it in, top it with cheese and bake in the oven. Ok, so perhaps thats easier said than done.
Here is how my challenge went though.
My favourite pasta sauce that I use for lasagne, bolognaise on pasta or even just to eat as a glorified savoury mince is inspired by this recipe from Everyday Gourmet. I love Justine Schoefield’s recipes, we clearly have similar taste. If you are a lasagne connoisseur, this is the next recipe that you HAVE to try. Its amazing and just melts in your mouth.
Its really hard to make a meat based sauce to a specific quantity. I was brought up cooking for 4, which meant really cooking for 10, so you can imagine how busy it got in my fridge when I lived on my own. Lets just say, any big dish I felt the urge to cook, required inviting my posse over to help me polish it off so I wasn’t eating leftovers for a week. Especially if it was something particularly calorie laden like Key Lime Pie!
Tonights sauce was based around the need to clean out my fridge really so it looks a little something like this.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius
1 carrot, grated
1 zucchini, grated
1/2 leek – don’t need both unless you have them, it happened by accident!
2-5 cloves fresh garlic, smashed – amount depending on how much you like garlic
500g beef mince – a mixture of beef and pork goes really well too
1 handful fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped or torn
1 Tbsp oregano, dried or fresh
1 50g tub tomato paste
1/2 large jar passata or 3-4 chopped tomatoes, I used a punnet sized bowl of cherry tomatoes from the garden
4-5 thin slices of prosciutto or pancetta, diced
salt and pepper to taste
splash olive oil
250g fresh ricotta cheese from the deli, not the mushy one in the container – for 2 people
parmesan to top, my favourite is parmigiana reggiano but certainly isn’t the cheapest variety
red capsicums – try to buy squarish shaped ones that will sit nicely in the baking dish to make life easier
Brown the mince and add the onion, leek, carrot and zucchini and cook for a few minutes to combine and soften the veg. Will take about 10-15 mins.
Add the tomato paste and the tomatoes, stir through then cover and simmer for 10 mins to allow the tomatoes to soften and break down. If using passata, you can skip this step.
add the herbs and the chopped prosciutto/pancetta and stir. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for another 10 mins.
The simmering part is more beneficial if you have used passata, not so much if you’ve used fresh tomatoes as the sauce will be drier and you don’t want it to dry out. If it does, you could add 1/4 cup water to bring back to life a little.
At this point, the sauce is essentially done. If you’re the simmering kind, the longer the better but if time poor don’t worry, you won’t be worried about the difference!
Cut your capsicums in half, being carful to look for the two flattest sides to lay down so they aren’t rolling all over the place. If you need to, you can slice some of the skin on the under side to create a flat surface to keep it steady. Place in a large baking dish like so.
Just try not to slice the whole way through or your stuffing with leak out the bottom. If you wish, you can just cut off the tops and scoop out the seeds etc. then stand those babies up. Its just not always easy to find capsicums with good ‘feet’.
Using a dessert or soup spoon, stuff the mixture into the capsicums. The small spoon is a lot easier than using a serving spoon, you really want to stuff it in there so you get maximum stuffage! (Because thats a real word… 😉 )
Once suitably stuffed, top with crumbled ricotta cheese – hence my recommendation for the fresh stuff as opposed to the runny stir it up kind that comes in a container. Then, top the ricotta with the grated parmesan because cheese on top of cheese is the best thing ever! (Aside from chocolate anyway…)
Turn your oven down to about 170-180 degrees celsius and pop your tray in.
Cook until the capsicums start to soften and wilt, though if you prefer and don’t want to wait, 15-20 mins is enough to heat through the capsicums and soften them slightly and they are perfectly edible, I prefer them cooked through though so they are more grilled like and juicy. Once they reach this stage, they’ll look a little something like this.
I cooked these for 45 mins as they were very fresh, crisp and dense capsicums so took a little longer to soften up. But, they were certainly delicious.
This made enough sauce for approximately 6 people, but I’m only feeding two tonight so we’ll have left overs for something else tomorrow.
As I said at the start, this is a really simple recipe and one that is great to use for leftover savoury mince or pasta sauce. Can be made vegetarian, vegan, whatever you like. It is only limited to your imagination. Let me know below what your favourite version includes?