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baking, sauteeing Italian
Stuffed Vegetables

Photo by: Joseph De Leo
Comments: 0
 

Recipe

I Ripieni

To be honest, these stuffed vegetables are a bit of work. The up side is that they can be prepared well ahead of time and make a truly impressive addition to the antipasto table. (Eat enough of them and you will have eaten dinner!) The vegetables may be served warm or at room temperature, just not dead cold. Select the savory stuffing of your choice: rice, bread crumb, or meat.

Yield: Serves 12

Ingredients

For the rice stuffing

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus oil for drizzling
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1½ cups water
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, finely shredded
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the bread crumb stuffing

  • 4 slices coarse country bread, crusts removed, soaked in water, and squeezed almost dry
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons fine dried bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the meat stuffing

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, if using ground-beef or sausage
  • 1 pound ground beef; sweet Italian sausages, casings removed; or leftover roasted meat
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs, soaked in beef stock or waster and squeezed dry
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, mint, or marjoram (optional)
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the vegetables (select one)

  • 12 small or 6 large tomatoes
  • 6 green bell peppers
  • 6 small globe eggplants (6 to 7 ounces each)
  • 8 medium zucchini
  • 6 large yellow onions
  • salt and sugar, if using tomatoes
  • Extra virgin olive oil as needed

Directions

Select a stuffing to make. To make the rice stuffing, in a large sauté pan, heat ¼ cup of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. (If you are stuffing eggplants or zucchini, you will be sautéing the pulp from those vegetables at the same time). Add the rice and sauté for 2 minutes longer, coating it well with the oil. Add the water and simmer, uncovered, until the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and fold in the garlic, parsley, basil, and the remaining ¼ cup olive oil. Season with the salt and pepper and mix again.

To make the bread crumb stuffing, in a bowl, combine the soaked bread, eggs, bread crumbs, cheese, garlic, parsley, and the mint, if using. Mix well, season with the salt and pepper, and mix again.

To make the meat stuffing, if using ground beef or sausage, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef or sausage meat and cook, stirring to break up any lumps, until it loses its red color, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain off the excess fat. If using roasted meat, chop the meat. In a bowl, combine the freshly cooked or roasted meat, bread crumbs, parsley, basil (if using), and garlic and mix well. Add the eggs, season with the salt and pepper, and mix again.

Select a vegetable to stuff. If using small tomatoes, cut a ½-inch-thick slice off the top of each tomato and reserve the caps. If using large tomatoes, cut in half crosswise. Using a small spoon or grapefruit spoon, a small serrated knife, or a melon baller, remove the pulp and juice, leaving a shell about ½ inch thick. If you have made the rice or meat stuffing, chop the pulp and add it to the stuffing; if you have made the bread crumb stuffing, reserve the pulp for another use. Sprinkle the cavity of each tomato case with a little salt and a pinch of sugar. Fill each about three-fourths full if using the rice stuffing (the rice will expand as the tomatoes cook); if using one of the other stuffings, you can fill more generously. Replace the caps if using small tomatoes.

If using the bell peppers, cut a 1-inch-thick slice off the top of each pepper and reserve the caps. Remove and discard the seeds and ribs. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the peppers, and parboil for 4 to 5 minutes. Using tongs, lift the peppers out of the pot and invert to drain well. Fill each pepper about three-fourths full if using the rice stuffing (the rice will expand as the peppers cook); if using one of the other stuffings, you can fill more generously. Replace the caps.

If using the eggplants, cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Using a small spoon or grapefruit spoon, a small serrated knife, or a melon baller, scoop out some of the pulp, leaving a shell about ½ inch thick. If using the rice stuffing, chop the pulp and sauté it with the onion in the olive oil until tender as directed in the first step of making the stuffing, and then finish the stuffing as directed. If making one of the other stuffings, reserve the pulp for another use. Film the bottom of a large sauté pan with olive oil and place over medium heat. Working in batches, add the eggplant cases and sauté, turning as needed, until softened, about 5 minutes. Fill each eggplant case about three-fourths full if using the rice stuffing (the rice will expand as the eggplants cook); if using one of the other stuffings, you can fill more generously.

If using the zucchini, cut each zucchini in half lengthwise. Using a small spoon or grapefruit spoon, a small serrated knife, or a melon baller, scoop out and discard the seeds from each half, and then scoop out some of the pulp, leaving a shell ¼ to 1/3 inch thick. If using the rice stuffing, chop the pulp and sauté it with the onion in the olive oil until tender as directed in the first step of making the stuffing, and then finish the stuffing as directed. If making one of the other stuffings, reserve the pulp for another use or discard. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the zucchini cases, and parboil for 3 minutes. Using tongs, lift the zucchini cases out of the pot and invert to drain well. Fill each about three-fourths full if using the rice stuffing (the rice will expand as the zucchini cook); if using one of the other stuffings, you can fill more generously.

If using the onions, bring a large pot filled with water to a boil, add the onions, and boil until tender but not soft, about 10 minutes. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, cut in half crosswise. Using a small spoon or grapefruit spoon, a small serrated knife, or a melon baller, scoop out some of the pulp, leaving a shell ½ inch thick. If using the meat stuffing, chop the pulp and fold it into the stuffing. If making one of the other stuffings, reserve the pulp for another use. Fill each onion case about three-fourths full if using the rice stuffing (the rice will expand as the onions cook); if using one of the other stuffings, you can fill more generously.

To bake the vegetables, preheat the oven to 375°F. Oil a baking dish large enough to hold the stuffed vegetables in a single layer without crowding. Place the vegetables in the dish and drizzle with olive oil. If you are baking tomatoes, add water to a depth of ½ inch to the baking dish. If, the eggplant cases still seem quite firm, add the same amount of water to the dish.

Bake the vegetables until tender when pierced with a knife tip, 25 to 45 minutes (the tomatoes may take the longer amount of time because they have not been parboiled or fried in advance). Serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes

WINE: Because there are so many diverse fillings and vegetables, the wine must work across a broad palette. For a white, a Verdicchio from the Marche is a crowd-pleaser and will pair well with the rice and bread stuffings. For a red, try a Rosso Conero, also from the Marche (but stay away from those labeled riserva, they are too big to complement antipasti). It has enough fruit balanced with great acidity to pair with all the fillings and vegetables. Moroder makes an excellent Rosso Conero.


© 2006 Joyce Goldstein
 

Nutritional Information

Nutrients per serving (% daily value)

Nutritional information based on using 6 green bell peppers with rice stuffing.

155kcal (8%)
15mg (2%)
51mg (84%)
18mcg RAE (1%)
144mg
14mg
2g
2g
1g
17g
0mg (0%)
198mg (8%)
1g (7%)
9g (14%)
1mg (3%)
 

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