Ground beef isn’t the only thing you can stuff in a pepper.
In her new book, "The Italian Vegetable Cookbook: 200 Favorite Recipes for Antipasti, Soups, Pasta, Main Dishes, and Desserts" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30), Michele Scicolone shares a Southern Italian (and pescatarian-friendly) spin on the stuffed pepper, one that is packed with tomatoes, capers, black olives, cooked pasta and chopped anchovies. That last ingredient can be polarizing, so leave it out if you’re not a fan of those little umami-filled fish. (You can also substitute anchovy paste for the chopped filets.)
It’s important to not overcook the pasta before baking the peppers, and if you’d like to experiment with other kinds of large, stuff-able peppers besides the ubiquitous bell, go for it. Bell are the most popular because of their mild flavor and bowl-like shape, but sweet, poblano or banana peppers would work, too.
Capers, olives and anchovies are the Three Musketeers of Southern Italian cooking. Here they are mixed with tomatoes and pasta to stuff sweet bell peppers before roasting. If the peppers are very large or if I am making these as part of an antipasto and want smaller portions, I cut the peppers in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and stuff each half for smaller individual servings.
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil 3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 (2-oz.) can anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
2 Tbsp. capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped pitted imported black olives
Freshly ground pepper
6 large red or yellow bell peppers
4 oz. ditalini, tubetti, or other small pasta
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a baking dish just large enough to hold the peppers upright, and bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.
In a large skillet, cook the garlic in the oil over medium heat for 1 minute until softened. Stir in the tomatoes and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the anchovies, capers, olives, and salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, cut the tops off the peppers and set them aside. With a small sharp knife, remove and discard the seeds and the white membranes from the insides.
Add the pasta to the boiling water, stir and cook, stirring frequently, until al dente. Drain well, then stir the pasta into the tomato sauce.
Fill each pepper about three-quarters full with the pasta mixture. Place the tops on them and arrange them in the baking dish. Pour 1 cup water around them.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until the peppers are tender when pierced with a fork. Serve warm. Serves 6.
— From "The Italian Vegetable Cookbook: 200 Favorite Recipes for Antipasti, Soups, Pasta, Main Dishes, and Desserts" by Michele Scicolone (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30)