My Italian Stuffed Peppers feature ground beef, rice and onions with marinara, Pecorino Romano, mozzarella and basil! Forget boring and bland. This is the best stuffed pepper recipe!
If this is your first time visiting Cooking with Mamma C, you may not be aware that I test my recipes over and over like a madwoman.
So, when I tell you these are the best stuffed peppers with tomato sauce, I say it with confidence.
Back in 2018, I kept working on this Italian Stuffed Peppers recipe, taking it from "not bad" to "good" to "better" to "OH MY GOSH THESE ARE FABULOUS!"
Deciding to use my Homemade Marinara Sauce was game-changing. So was adding Pecorino Romano instead of Parmesan.
Talk about a huge flavor kick!
Of course, I had to add a generous amount of mozzarella and accent the stuffed peppers with ribbons of fresh basil.
You're going to love these.
Peppers: I always use bell peppers, because they're nice and roomy to stuff with filling. I prefer red, yellow or orange ones because they're sweeter than green peppers, but you can make stuffed green peppers.
Really, you can use any variety of sweet peppers, including Romano peppers, which are long and red. If the peppers are small, you'll just need more of them to use up the filling.
Cooked rice: You'll need one cup of cooked rice, so make sure it's ready to go before you start the recipe. I prefer using white, long-grain rice in stuffed peppers.
You can follow my method for How to Cook Long Grain Rice Like Pasta. I always make extra and freeze the leftovers to have on hand for recipes like this. Just thaw it first.
If you prefer, you can substitute brown rice or any kind you have.
Marinara sauce: The best sauce for stuffed peppers is my homemade marinara (linked in the recipe card). Forget the bland tomato sauce used in old-fashioned stuffed pepper recipes.
You'll need a quart of sauce for this recipe. You don't need to add onions to the sauce, since there is onion in the meat filling.
I like to make extra batches of sauce to freeze in quart containers so I'm prepared to make dishes like this. If starting with frozen marinara, thaw it in the microwave first.
Ground beef: I always make beef stuffed peppers using lean, (90% or higher) ground beef. If you use fattier meat, you'll need to drain most of the excess liquid after browning it, so the peppers don't become soggy.
You also could make sausage stuffed peppers with either hot or mild Italian sausage. Buy ground sausage or remove the casings from sausage links and break it up yourself.
Note that sausage will be saltier than ground beef. I'd recommend not adding salt to the meat mixture until after you've cooked the filling and tasted it to see if it's needed.
Cheeses: Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese brings a delicious pop of flavor! You could use Parmesan instead, but Pecorino is key for the best Italian Stuffed Peppers.
We're using shredded mozzarella for the top of the peppers. I recommend shredding it yourself, so it melts more smoothly than packaged shredded mozzarella.
How to make Italian stuffed peppers
See the recipe card at the end of this post for full instructions, but here's an overview.
Cut the peppers in half and clean out the seeds and membranes. We're making open-face stuffed peppers for more surface area to cover with cheese!
Boil the pepper halves for three minutes and let them drain while you prepare the meat filling.
Make the filling
- Brown the ground beef with chopped onions.
- Stir in some tomato sauce.
- Add cooked rice and Pecorino.
Stuff the peppers
- Fill each pepper half to the rim with the meat mixture. I like to use my tablespoon scoop (affiliate link) to make it neater.
- You'll have some extra filling (so sad!) Nestle it around your peppers in the pan. It'll come out so delicious and a bit crispy on the edges.
- Sprinkle shredded mozzarella on top of the pepper halves.
Bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees F. And, it's not mandatory, but I recommend you broil those Italian Stuffed Peppers for two minutes to get some gorgeous browning on the surface of that melted cheese.
Oh, yes, my friends!
What to serve with stuffed peppers
Serve the stuffed peppers with more marinara sauce spooned on top. Extra Pecorino is nice, but not necessary.
These hearty stuffed peppers make a complete meal, so you can skip side dishes if you prefer. But I like to serve them with The Best Italian Green Salad with Homemade Dressing and Homemade Italian Bread.
Italian Strawberries make a refreshing, light dessert to round out the perfect meal.
You can assemble the Italian Stuffed Peppers a day ahead. Cover them with foil and refrigerate them. The next day, let them sit out for about 30 minutes before baking uncovered, as directed in the recipe.
Tips for healthier stuffed peppers:
- Use ground turkey or ground chicken in place of the beef.
- Substitute quinoa or brown rice for the white rice.
- Use less mozzarella.
They'll still be delicious!
For keto stuffed peppers
Omit the rice, and make sure you're using a sugar-free marinara. My sauce recipe is sugar-free and linked in the recipe card.
Frequently asked questions
For best results, freeze the stuffed peppers after they're fully assembled but not baked yet. Place them in an airtight container and freeze them for up to three months. Thaw them in the refrigerator overnight before baking.
For convenience, you can reheat cooked stuffed peppers in the microwave for a couple of minutes or so. Place one or more on a microwave-safe plate and lightly cover with wax paper first.
If you want to reheat several portions of stuffed peppers out of the refrigerator, you can bake them in the oven at 350 degrees F. Place them in a baking dish, cover with foil and bake for around 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another five minutes.
More recipes like this
- Authentic Italian Beef Meatballs
- Italian Meatloaf
- Spaghetti Bolognese
- Turkey Meatballs in Sauce
- Turkey Chili
- Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats
- Italian Peppers in Oil
If you make these Italian Stuffed Peppers, please be sure to leave a comment and a rating!
Italian Stuffed Peppers
- 4 bell peppers (I prefer red)
- 1 pound ground beef (use 90% lean, or ground turkey)
- 1 onion (yellow or red)
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 quart marinara sauce (one batch of Cooking with Mamma C's marinara without onions)
- 1 cup cooked long-grain rice (or use brown rice or quinoa)
- 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (shred your own for best melting)
- 8 fresh basil leaves
- Fill a 6-quart pot ⅔ full with hot water. Place over high heat on the stove and cover.
- Rinse the peppers and pat them dry. Cut out the stems and slice each pepper in half. Scrape out the seeds and membranes and discard them.
- When the water is boiling, carefully place the pepper halves in the pot. Boil the peppers for three minutes.
- Carefully drain the peppers in a colander in the sink. Use tongs to turn the peppers so the cut sides face down, allowing the water to drain out of them. Let them sit in the colander as you make the meat filling.
- Peel the onion and chop it. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Grate the Pecorino and shred your mozzarella, if needed.
- Add the ground beef to a 12-inch skillet on the stove over medium-high heat. Break up the meat with a wooden spoon. After a minute, stir in the chopped onions, red pepper flakes and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is browned and the onions are tender. If the meat is lean enough (90%) you shouldn't have to drain any fat. If you have lots of liquid, drain most of it.
- Stir in 1 ½ cups of marinara sauce to the meat mixture. Stir in the rice (if it was frozen, thaw it in the microwave first.) Add the Pecorino Romano and stir to combine. Cook the mixture for a couple minutes, or until it's heated through.
- Prepare a half sheet pan or a 10x15 baking pan for the peppers. If using a sheet pan, line it with foil and grease it with cooking spray. If using a 10x15 pan, just grease it with spray.
- Add the drained pepper halves to your baking pan, cut side up. Scoop about three tablespoons of the meat filling into each pepper half. Add more meat as needed, until each pepper half is filled to the surface. Scatter any extra meat filling around the peppers in your pan.
- Sprinkle each pepper half with two tablespoons of shredded mozzarella. Gently pat the cheese onto the peppers.
- Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes at 375 degrees F. Then, broil the peppers for two minutes to brown the cheese, if desired.
- While the peppers are baking, gently rinse your basil leaves and pat them dry. Stack a few leaves, roll them up, and slice them into ribbons. When the stuffed peppers are done, sprinkle the basil on top and serve with extra marinara sauce. Refrigerate leftovers for up to four days.
(Recipe Source: Cooking with Mamma C. Originally published on November 9, 2018 and updated now with more information and an additional photo.)