There’s something about stuffed peppers that always feels like the cozy, tuck-you-in type of comfort food to me.
They’re also the kind of comfort food that I tend to avoid in the warmer months because most recipes require turning on the oven. When it feels like an oven outside, I try not to use the oven inside, you know? So when the craving for stuffed peppers hit me this week, I decided to try out a stove-top version instead.
I’m really not sure why I never thought to make stuffed peppers entirely in a skillet before. These Saucy Skillet Chicken Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Peppers become perfectly tender on the outside, stay moist and flavorful on the inside, and cook in a super easy to make tomato-basil sauce, all in one pan. That’s so much simpler than most stuffed pepper recipes, which call for sauteing this, browning that, assembling, baking, and then washing a ton of dishes, right? And of course to top it all off, my kitchen stays nice and cool without that oven cranked up to 400 degrees.
Instead of using bell peppers for this recipe, I decided to go with cubanelles– AKA Italian frying peppers. As the name suggests, these peppers are popular in Cuba, but they actually have Italian roots and are used in many Italian recipes as well. The peppers are mild and sweet, much like bell peppers, but the walls of the pepper are much thinner, so they wind up almost melting into the filling as the soften up in the skillet.
Yup, it’s fantastic.
Despite my love for Cuban food, I like to go the Italian route with my cubanelle peppers, so I stuff them with Italian chicken sausage, spinach, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, and breadcrumbs. I cook rice on the side to serve the peppers and sauce with, but pasta would be a tasty alternative, too. After all, the filling is very similar to super juicy meatballs!
Chicken sausage can tend to taste a bit dry after cooking, so I sneak as much moisture in as possible by soaking the breadcrumbs in milk before mixing together the filling. It might sound weird, but trust me, if you start using milk-soaked breadcrumbs in your meatballs and meatloaves from here on out, you’ll see a world of a difference.
And since I already have the milk out, I like to add just a little to my sauce at the end. It gives it just a tiny bit of creaminess. That sauce + that filling + those peppers = perfection. Yes, even in the summer.
- ½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
- ¾ cup milk, divided
- 1 pound raw Italian chicken sausage, casings removed
- 1 (10 ounce) box frozen spinach, thawed and drained
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 4 large cubanelle peppers
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup marinara sauce
- ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup Italian basil leaves, divided
- Rice to serve, optional
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with ¼ cup milk to form a thick paste. Mix in the chicken sausage meat, thawed spinach, egg, parmesan cheese, ½ cup of the mozzarella cheese, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
- Use a pairing knife to cut around the stems of the peppers, then pull out the stems and discard them. Make a slit down the length of one side of the pepper, from the hole at the top to the tip. Pull out the seeds and guts through the slits and discard them.
- Stuff the peppers with the chicken sausage mixture, making sure to press the stuffing in well. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once warmed, place the peppers in the skillet, open side down. Cook until the exposed stuffing is browned, about 5 minutes. Flip and lightly brown the bottoms, about 3-4 minutes. Pour in the marinara sauce and chicken broth, cover, and reduce to a light simmer. Cook until the filling is cooked through completely, about 25 minutes.
- Uncover the skillet and add in the basil and the remaining milk. Stir well to combine and cook until warmed and the basil is wilted, about 5 minutes. Top with the remaining basil leaves and serve with rice, if desired.
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