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Easy Stuffed Peppers

A Budget-Friendly Complete Meal

In today’s economy, we are all aware of the skyrocketing cost of… well, EVERYTHING! But the good news is we can create exciting and beautiful meals on a tight budget. This month, I am presenting my recipe for sausage stuffed peppers. This recipe will keep you within your budget without sacrificing quality or presentation. The peppers can be baked in the oven or on the grill.

Red, yellow, and orange bell peppers have a wonderful sweet taste once roasted. They are also beautiful on a plate alongside your favorite green vegetable or salad. But this recipe presents the stuffed pepper as a full meal without additional sides—your option. Let’s get started.

Ingredients For 8 Servings With Leftovers (4 Now – 4 Later)
  • 2 lbs Italian sausage (mild or hot, depending on your preference. I like mixing 1 lb hot mixed with 1 lb mild sausage.)
  • 2 lbs Italian sausage (mild or hot, depending on your preference. I like mixing 1 lb hot mixed with 1 lb mild sausage.)
  • Mix of 4 red, yellow, and orange large bell peppers (optionally, green can be included if desired)
  • 1 cup of Jasmine Rice (The recipe directions are the same for any rice variety, so use what you have.)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar
  • 12-16oz beef stock
  • 6 -8oz of tomato sauce
  • 1 3-4 oz of tomato paste
  • 1 large yellow onion diced
  • 6 -8oz of tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp dried Thyme
  • 1 tsp dried Rosemary
  • Note: Rosemary and Thyne can be substituted for 2 tbsps. of dry Italian Seasoning.)
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste

If you like things a bit spicier, add the following optional ingredients.

  • 1 large jalapeno pepper chopped with seeds removed
  • 1 -2 medium habanero peppers chopped with seeds removed
  • red pepper flakes to taste

Prep Time: Approx 45 minutes

Baking/Grilling Time: 30 minutes

Preparation (mise en place) 

Prep Note: Taking a few minutes to prepare your ingredients BEFORE you start cooking will make the experience more enjoyable. This way, you can concentrate on the exact cooking steps without worrying about preparing an ingredient while frying or cooking your dish. Try it once this way. You, too, will believe in mise en place (translation: set up.)



First, let’s start with the rice. Place one cup of rice in a mesh strainer to make perfectly fluffy rice that does not stick together. Then rinse the rice until the water coming through is perfectly clear. This step takes three to five minutes, but don’t discount its importance. All of the starch on the dry rice must be removed. Once rinsed, set it aside and let the rice continue to drain.


Next, let’s prepare the peppers.

  • Rinse the peppers to remove any dirt.
  • Slice the top of the pepper to remove the green stem. Remove the seeds and white skin from the inside, being careful not to tear the side of the pepper.
  • Place the peppers on a baking sheet with a silicon mat. If a pepper does not sit flat on the baking sheet, turn it on its side and slice a small section from the bottom to level it. Try not to cut through the pepper, but if you do, the pepper can still be used.
  • Set aside

Finally, prepare the remaining ingredients and set aside.

  • Preheat the oven or grill to 375 degrees.
  • Heat a cast iron or non-stick pan to 365 degrees. Use a laser thermometer if you have one. Alternatively, you can use the water droplet test: when a drop of water sizzles and evaporates quickly on the surface, it’s likely around 350-365 degrees. Once the pan is hot, add the olive oil. Let the oil get warm – about 30-45 seconds.
  • Place the sausage in the pan and break it into very small pieces while frying using a flat-edge wooden spoon. This step is important! Once the meat is broken up and has begun to brown, let it form a medium-brown crust on the bottom. This is known as the Maillard reaction and will greatly enhance the flavor of the meat. Once the meat is done, remove the meat from the pan and set aside. Drain about half the fat from the pan.
  • In the same pan, put the chopped onions and set the burner to medium heat. Add a pinch of salt to help the onions release their water. Stir the onions until they are soft and translucent. We aren’t going for caramelization here, so don’t overcook them. Clear and soft, not brown.
  • If you are adding hot peppers, go ahead and add them now. Cook for 2-3 minutes longer to soften. If not using hot peppers, skip this step.
  • Add the rinsed rice and the remaining dried spices. Stir continually so the peppers, onions, and rice are well combined. Cook and stir for 3-4 minutes on medium heat. This step “toasts” the rice and gives it a nutty flavor.
  • Clear a spot at the center of the pan and add the garlic. Stir in the center of the pan for a few seconds and then stir completely into the rice for a total cooking time of about one minute. As soon as the garlic aroma rises from the pan, go to the next step.
  • Add the tomato paste. Stir the paste thoroughly into the rice mixture and cook for a minute or so more until the tomato paste is “roasted.”
  • Stir in the tomato sauce. You can add more sauce at this stage, depending on your taste.
  • Add the sausage back into the mixture and combine well. Turn heat to medium-low.
  • Add 1 cup of beef stock and stir into the mixture. Keep stirring. If it looks too dry, add about 1/2 cup more beef stock. Taste the rice. The rice should be firm but not crunchy. If more stock is needed for the rice to absorb more moisture, add another 1/2 cup.
  • Once the rice reaches the desired texture, turn off the stove.
  • Remove about half of the mixture and place in a storage container.
  • Stir in one cup of cheese to the remaining half of the mixture and allow it to melt and completely blend.
  • Spoon the cheesy mixture into the peppers. Fill the peppers completely and pack, but leave a little room at the top.
  • Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the peppers.
  • Place the baking sheet in the oven’s center rack or on the grill’s top rack. Bake for 30 minutes.
  • OPTION FOR GRILLING – add soaked wood chips to the grill to produce smoke. This will give the peppers a delicious smoky charcoal flavor.
  • Remove from the oven and allow the peppers to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
The Leftovers

Place the leftovers in a storage container and put them in the freezer. The only thing you will need to do this recipe again is 4 peppers and 1 1/2 cups of cheese.

  • Defrost the mixture
  • Warm the mixture in a pan and add the cheese.
  • Bake the peppers as described above.
The Cost Per Serving

I shopped at my local Publix for the ingredients. I had the needed spices in the cabinet, so I did not include them in the shopping calculations. The total cost of the actual spice used would be less than $1.00.

  • Total ingredients: $36.00
  • Spices: $1.00
  • Leftover shop: (4 peppers and one bag of cheese) $6.50
  • Total: $5.44 per serving

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