Low Carb Italian Stuffed Peppers are my new favorite entrée! I’ve been longing for comfort food these days, and in particular, a pasta-based dish. Until a couple of days ago, the thought of eating stuffed peppers was not on my radar. I’m a child of the 60’s and 70’s, and remember well my disdain for soggy green peppers stuffed with a mixture of ground beef, onions, canned tomatoes, and a few spices. YUK!
I subscribe to a couple of food magazines, and one of the recent cover photos was so beautiful I couldn’t get it out of my mind: colorful, gorgeous peppers stuffed with cheese and spices, baked and served as vegan appetizers. It got me thinking.
I’ve never attempted stuffed peppers before, so I was surprised how spectacular they tasted. I started out the way I always do when tackling a new recipe: what flavors and textures am I looking for, and how can I combine taste and nutrition into a winning combo? I haven’t had Italian lasagna in forever, so I dusted off a few old cookbooks, and rifled through the pages until I found lasagna. I wanted roasted peppers (no soggy peppers here) layered the same way as lasagna: Italian-style meat mixture and a variety of cheeses. Essentially, lasagna without the pasta. I wasn’t convinced it could taste as good as the real deal.
Traditional lasagna recipes list the same basic ingredients: ground meat (beef, pork sausage), onions, garlic, Italian seasonings, and three cheeses – Parmesan, mozzarella and a soft cheese, like ricotta or cottage cheese. You layer the lasagna with pasta, meat, and cheeses. That simple. Same recipe, but instead of using pasta, we use peppers as our foundation.
Bell peppers are packed with nutrition. One medium-sized red bell pepper contains only 37 calories, but also provides 169% of the RDI for vitamin C, 75% RDI for vitamin A, a good amount of fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin K, and folate. They’re also high in carotenoids, plant-based antioxidants that can protect you from disease and enhance your immune system.
Start with 8 colorful bell peppers, rinse and slice off the tops. Originally, we used only 6 peppers, but found we had quite a bit of leftover meat mixture and realized we can fill 8 without a problem! Scoop out the membrane and seeds. On the stovetop, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil, add ground beef and pork, then brown. Season with Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, shredded Parmesan, and jarred low-carb marinara sauce. We love spicy foods, and use Rao’s Homemade Arrabbiata, but any low sugar sauce will do.I ran out of Italian seasoning, so I made my own mixing these dried spices together: 1 tsp basil, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp rosemary, 1/2 tsp marjoram, and 1/2 tsp thyme.
Place 1/4 cup of the meat mixture on the bottom of each pepper, then layer on cream cheese, then mozzarella. Repeat. Brush outside of peppers with olive oil and roast in the oven for 20 minutes.Leftovers taste just as delicious as the night they were served. Wrap leftover peppers individually in foil and store in refrigerator or freezer. Fine in fridge for 5 days, and freezer for 3 months (thaw in fridge before reheating). To reheat: cut peppers in half from top to bottom (shortens cooking time and promotes even heating). Place in 425 degree F oven for 20 – 25 minutes. Tent with foil the last few minutes if cheese is over-browning.
Low Carb Keto Italian Stuffed Peppers
- Small paring knife
- Large skillet
- Small baking sheet or dish
- 8 large bell peppers
- 1 pound 80/20 ground beef browned, drained
- ½ pound pork sausage regular or hot variety, browned, drained
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ cup onions scallions or your favorite onion variety
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 cups low carb marinara sauce we love Rao's
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese shredded
- 8 oz cream cheese full-fat, softened
- 2 cups mozzarella shredded
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a small baking sheet (I use 9 x 13) with aluminum foil. Wash peppers and slice off tops. Using small paring knife, remove membranes and seeds. Arrange peppers cut side up on prepared baking dish.
- Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat for 1 minute. Add onions and sauté 3-5 minutes. Add minced garlic and continue cooking for 1 minute.
- Increase heat to medium-high. Add ground beef and pork sausage. Cook until browned (8-10 minutes). Drain excess fat. Reduce heat; stir in marinara sauce and spices. Simmer until meat mixture is heated throughout (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat. Add 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese and stir.
- To assemble peppers, layer ¼ cup of meat mixture on bottom of each pepper. Next, spoon in approximately ½ tablespoon softened cream cheese, followed by 1 tablespoon shredded mozzarella cheese. (I use my fingers to approximate cheese amount). Repeat process for second layer: meat, cream cheese, mozzarella. After stuffing, brush the outside of peppers with olive oil and roast in oven at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes. Tent with aluminum foil the last few minutes if cheese over-browns.
- Remove from oven and serve.