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.
And, speaking of peppers, don't miss my Baked Sausage, Peppers and Onions!
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.
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.)
My son needed to bring something to their weekly party and he decided to make the stuffed peppers he’s not much of a cook but he came to mom For help I was glad to help him so we followed your directions except I had some spaghetti sauce in the refrigerator that I used but that was the only exception I spoke to him after the party and he said the stuffed peppers were a hit everyone loved them we made 24 1/2 it was a little bit of work but it was worth it he said they were delicious everyone loved them I’m going to make them for my husband and myself great job with your recipes I love all your posts I’m a Italian100% a lot ofYour recipes are close to mine love Italian food I grew up in little Italy
Hi Char Angie - I'm so happy these stuffed peppers were a hit! I'm planning to make them next Sunday for Father's Day. Did you mean you're from Little Italy in Cleveland?
Thank you so much for this recipe, they were delicious! What great tricks to boil the peppers and precook the filling. My husband loved it, said it was better than my Italian Mom's 🙂
Hi Helen - Oh, that's high praise! I'm so glad these stuffed peppers were a hit.
These peppers were so delicious!
I added some sausage and a bit of pepperoni to the mixture and they were fantastic!
I also made your simple marinara sauce and it was so tasty.
My husband said they were the best he ever had.
I highly recommend this recipe.
I will definitely make some more of u you our recipes.
Hi Terry - I'm so happy to hear you and your husband loved the peppers and my sauce! If you want to subscribe to receive emails with my recipes, here is the link to sign up.
Excellent recipe! I've tried many different ones and this is by far the best of them all, good job
Hi Jeff - Your comment made my day! Thanks so much for letting me know.
Matt @ Plating Pixels
Typically I do Mexican style fillings but these look great!
Mexican would be great too! Thanks, Matt.
These look fantastic! Incredible flavors going on for sure!
Thanks, Taylor! We inhaled them!
It's been way too long since I've had stuffed peppers! Putting these on the menu!
They really hit the spot, Pam. Enjoy!
Lisa | Garlic & Zest
Huge fan of stuffed peppers here and your recipe is on point! Keeping frozen cooked rice available is genius for making this a quick and easy dish. Ditto for the marinara! Next time, invite me over!
I'd love to invite you over! Thanks, Lisa!
I love stuffed peppers but I haven't made them in so long! These look awesome!
Thanks, Liz! They're our new favorite meal.