Imagine juicy, tender, flavorful *meatloaf* with heavenly rich and garlicky pesto….baked into sweet, mild, crisp-tender red peppers….topped with a blanket of melty, and lightly toasted, fresh mozzarella….and ladled with warm, oven-roasted tomato sauce…. Need I say more?? Uhm, yea. My Mozzarella and Pesto Meatloaf Stuffed Peppers with Roasted Tomato Gravy brought much needed smiles by the miles!
Yet again, I STILL have sweet red cubanelle peppers ripening and coming in, and I’m starting to get impatient to just be done with it all. I can’t pull up any of my garden vegetable plants yet, because they’re all still producing! Not just peppers, but tomatoes, too! (I swear, I almost cried when I saw new BLOOMS! Noooo! Just. STOP! ) This truly is the first year that I wish they’d be done so I can get everything cleaned out before it SNOWS. (Needless to say, I’m already plotting an untimely death for the last of my tomatoes…) OH yea. You WILL be transformed into something delicious. Still green or not! 😉
But I’ll tell ya. NOT complaining! Fresh produce is a godsend, and two of my favorite things to grow are peppers and tomatoes! So I’ve incorporated BOTH into this recipe, and I couldn’t be happier and more pleased with the way they turned out! If you don’t have a garden, you can make this with about any type of pepper your local grocery store or farmer’s market has available. Even regular (small) bell peppers would work just fine sliced in half lengthwise. (*But just remember, you might need to increase the baking time if you’re going to be adding a lot more meat to each half). Prefer a bit of heat? Use some mild to hot banana peppers! Or reduce the whole baking time, and make mini ones using large jalapeños for football Sunday! Where there’s a pepper, there’s a way! 😉
So, I hope that you aren’t tired of “stuffed pepper” recipes and ideas….especially because I have at least one more batch coming….and….it WILL be the last….omg….
I really do think that you’ll enjoy making these cute little babies, though! And they’re SO easy! So to quickly get this done, just break up your LEAN ground beef into a large bowl first. And, make note of this. —> LEAN. <— Unless you want a nasty, greasy mess! And, if you break up the meat first, it’s much easier and quicker to get everything else mixed in later, and not over mix anything and turn the meat mixture into pâté that bakes up hard as a hockey puck.
Sprinkle your ingredients in EVENLY peeps. RESIST the “PLOP”. Omg, I HATE “the plop”. I seriously really despise that. There’s NO WAY you’re going to get things, such as salt for instance, that’s a small amount with intense flavor, infused evenly if you do “the plop”. One person will cough embarrassingly after “the bad bite”, and the other person at the end of the table will be saying…Can you please pass the salt? I think she forgot to add the salt! 😉 NOT good. 😉 Always “sprinkle and toss, sprinkle and toss”, I say. 😉 Pretty pics and videos looking good for the camera doesn’t make it taste good. 😉 I cook for US. NOT the camera.
See…could you imagine plopping and dumping this whole packet as well as the rest, right into the middle or each side and think that it’s all going to get mixed in evenly….as the juices of the meat start to absorb the dry ingredient immediately on contact… 😉 Make your food taste good. Not pretty as you make it. Who cares about that.
Ok, point made. (I hope!) After you get everything nicely mixed into the meat, fill whatever peppers you’d like. I used my sweet red cubanelles from my garden, some of the last for this season, and got 9 halves! ONE half is enough for me, but the hubs had two per serving, so they really do go far! And the mount made worked out beautifully!
After baking you’ll have juice, but VERY little fat! I thought to sop that right up with the corner of a paper towel, but I’m so glad that I didn’t! They were wonderful just as is. You’d just be sopping up wonderful juices from the peppers and pesto, mostly! So resist doing this as I did!!
Top with your fresh mozzarella and pop back into the oven to finish baking…..
….and look how pretty they are!!! And….omg….they smell sooooo good!!!!
Add a little parsley to finish the tops!!
Now. You can certainly stop right here….
….but my easy Roasted Tomato Gravy was WONDERFUL on top! Have a saucepan of this rich and tasty, EASY fresh tomato and pesto sauce made up to ladle over them for a mouthwatering treat!
This actually turned out even better than I had hoped! The meatloaf was perfectly done, tender and juicy and not dry a bit, the peppers were crisp-tender and not mushy, and the tomato gravy was heavenly ladled over the tops! They are simple and easy to make, and I sure hope that you give these a try soon!!! Easy enough for a weeknight, having the gravy pre-prepared, and nice enough for the weekend for guests and Football Sunday! ENJOY!!!
- For Meatloaf and Peppers:
- 1 lb. quality extra-lean ground beef such as Certified Angus® (93% lean or better)
- 1 (0.5 oz.) envelope Knorr Pesto Sauce Mix
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- ⅓ cup milk
- ⅓ cup italian style dry breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup finely grated 100% real parmesan cheese
- ¼ tsp. each regular salt and coarse ground black pepper (salt is optional)
- fresh sweet red cubanelle peppers, sliced in half lengthwise and cleaned out inside
- *8* thick slices fresh mozzarella cheese, diced or halved
- fresh chopped parsley for garnish
- For Roasted Tomato Gravy:
- 2 cups crushed roasted fresh tomatoes
- 2 Tbl. butter
- ¼ - ⅓ cup chopped onions (1/2 of a small onion), or as you like
- 1 Tbl. basil pesto
- ⅛ tsp. regular salt
- fresh cracked black pepper or coarse ground, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350ºF.
- Break up and crumble (raw) ground beef into a large bowl. Sprinkle evenly with dry pesto mix, lightly toss to mix a little. Add beaten egg, milk, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.Mix with hands until ingredients are evenly combined but not over mixed to a mushy, pasty state.
- Pack meatloaf mixture into prepared pepper halves to one inch above tops, smoothing as you would a regular meatloaf. Place each as you go along into a large oven-proof/broiler-safe pan drizzled with 1 Tbl. olive oil so that they won't stick to the bottom. (Brush the oil around to coat). *I use either my stainless steel frying pan or my cast iron one, depending on how many I'm making and how they all fit. Eyeball what you have going on. You can always do two pans.
- Pop into preheated 350ºF oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, top each with fresh mozzarella cheese, and place back into oven for another 15 minutes until fully melted and meat mixture is done through. You can add brownness to the cheese if you want by turning your oven to broil after it's all done. Watch so that you don't burn the melted cheese, though.
- Serve ladled with the Tomato Gravy.
- For Tomato Gravy:
- Slice enough fresh tomatoes into wedges to fill a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, place onto sheet skin side down, sprinkle with 1 tsp. kosher salt, and roast in a 375º oven until desired consistency. I did mine for about 1½ hours. Time will depend on size of tomatoes, and how done you like them. We aren't drying them, just cooking them to evaporate some of the excess juice and water which concentrates their flavor, and getting a wee bit of char on the bottoms here and there for extra flavor. When tomatoes are how you want them, remove them from the oven and transfer them with a slotted spoon to a bowl to cool down. When room temp, toss them into the blender and blend until smooth.
- In small saucepan, add butter and onions and sauté until onions are soft. Add blended roasted tomatoes, pesto, salt and pepper to taste, bring to a simmer, simmer for 2 - 3 minutes until thick, remove and set aside. Ladle over peppers when serving.