In my life there are happy peppers and sad peppers. At a first sight they look quite the same, but they are false brothers. The sad peppers are those found in the supermarket shelves in the winter, slightly fibrous glasshouse monsters devoid of any flavor and scent. I use them sometime, just because I am bored of winter veggies. However they are always disappointing despite my efforts to put some personality in them.
The happy peppers are the ones who arrive in summer. They are juicy, sweet, aromatic and deliciously textured especially when roasted in the oven and even better on a BBQ. I so look forward to their appearance in the market!
This is one of my mum’s classic recipes, so simple and always popular as an appetizer or light vegetarian meal. It works very well with gluten-free breadcrumbs or you could use cooked quinoa or other small grains if you need to avoid wheat. It’s great party food as they are delicious at room temperature too. And of course they make a great night snack if it’s too hot to sleep :).
Prepare a basic tomato sauce with 1 small onion, a 400 g (12 oz) tin of crush tomatoes and a splash of white wine.
Grill 3-4 whole peppers on a BBQ rack or under a preheated broiler, until skins start to blister. You need to grill them quickly as you only want to burn the skin away, the peppers should be hardly cooked otherwise they will fall apart and you won’t be able to use them for the rolls.
Transfer the peppers into a paper bag or wrap with several layers of kitchen paper, then let them stand until cool enough to handle. Peel the peppers, then open lengthwise, discarding stems and seeds. Make sure to avoid breaking the flesh as it will be more difficult to stuff and roll. You can use half peppers or roll up the whole pepper depending on size.
Peppers may be prepared up to this point 1 day ahead and refrigerated.
- 2 cups bread crumbs
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese (not Romano) plus 1-2 tablespoon extra for sprinkling
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1 large garlic clove, finely minced
- black pepper to taste
- optional: 100 to 150 g (4-5 oz) diced fresh mozzarella
In a bowl mix the stuffing ingredients with a 2-3 tablespoon tomato sauce until the stuffing looks moist but not wet. Make sure to reserve some of the sauce for topping the rolls.
Arrange the open peppers on a worktop or cutting board. Preheat the oven at 200 °C (390 °F).
Top the peppers with the stuffing, arranging it in 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) layer. Scatter with fresh mozzarella if using. Roll up each slice tightly to enclose the bread mixture. Transfer the rolls in an oiled ovenproof pan where they should fit snugly so they will not unroll during cooking. You might use cocktail sticks to secure the rolls but if you shape them well with your hands this will not be necessary.
Spoon a thin layer of tomato sauce over the rolls and sprinkle with Parmesan. Don’t drown them in sauce!
Bake for 10-20 min. until the cheese has melted and the sauce is slightly simmering.
Serve warm – not hot – or at room temperature. If using large peppers, cut each roll crosswise to serve. They will look like beautiful neon color sushi rolls.