I have a fresh twist on a house favorite today: Italian Stuffed Peppers. Sweet bell peppers stuffed with a savory blend of ground chicken or turkey, Italian herbs and cheeses, and the whole grain of your choice, each stuffed pepper is its own tidy and complete healthy dinner package.
Every time I make stuffed peppers, I’m reminded of just how fantastic they are as their own mini recipe genre.
Whether I choose to make these Stuffed Peppers, Mexican Stuffed Peppers, Spinach Artichoke Quinoa Stuffed Peppers, or Crock Pot Stuffed Peppers, I always look forward to dinner (and leftovers!). They’re so easy, tasty, and a total crowd-pleaser. I even created this delicious deconstructed Stuffed Pepper Casserole to further profess my love for all things stuffed pepper.
And today, I’m sharing these highly addictive sweet (or spicy) Italian stuffed peppers for your healthy eating and meal prep pleasure.
I started with my tried-and-true stuffed pepper base recipe, then gave it an Italian twist. PERFECTION.
Italian flavors and red bell peppers are a natural match. By the time you shower on the fresh basil and a generous handful of Mozzarella and Parm, this might be your favorite stuffed pepper recipe yet!
Italian Stuffed Peppers – Healthy Cooking MVP
Before we dive into the recipe, I want to share a few reasons why I consider stuffed peppers such a wonderful resource when you are seeking healthy meals.
- Stuffed peppers are a meal prep dream. You can assemble these stuffed entirely in advance or prep the filling only, whatever works best for you.
- Italian stuffed peppers are also quick and easy enough to where if you haven’t done any prep at all (me, most of the time!), you can still have them on the table in less than an hour.
- You can scale stuffed peppers to just about any quantity you need.
- They freeze and reheat like a dream. When I worked in an office, I often packed stuffed peppers for lunch, as they’re easy to reheat in the microwave (try it—your co-workers will be envious). These days, I like to bake them early on in the week, then reheat them in the oven for fast, healthy dinners.
- Stuffed peppers are healthy. Lean protein, veggies, and whole grains: the gang’s all here! I’m constantly looking for ways to cut down on time spent prepping ingredients and washing dishes (hence the robust collection of one-pan recipes in my blog recipe index), so recipes like these authentic Italian stuffed peppers that offer every food group in one are always a prize hit around here.
How to Make Healthy Italian Stuffed Peppers
The ingredients for this recipe are simple and scrumptious—two of my favorite qualities of Italian-inspired (or let’s be honest, any) recipe.
- Bell Peppers. I like to look for ones that are large and round, as they are the easiest to stuff. While you can use any color, for this Italian version, red bell peppers are my favorite, as their sweet flavor pairs nicely with Italian herbs and cheese.
- How Do You Cut Peppers for Stuffing? Start by washing and drying the peppers. Then, halve your peppers from top to bottom, cutting right down through the stems. Remove the seeds and membranes. That’s it! You are ready to stuff.
- Ground Chicken. Italian stuffed peppers with chicken is ultra mild, meaning you can flavor it any way you like! For a different twist, try using sweet or spicy Italian turkey sausage (look for either bulk ground sausage or uncooked sausage in casings; remove the meat from the casings prior to cooking). Regular ground turkey works too.
- If you want to make vegetarian Italian stuffed peppers, you could try using crumbled tofu in these peppers or swap a can of rinsed and drained white beans.
- Whole Grain of Your Choice. We use cooked brown rice, as I always have it in my pantry and often keep a container of cooked brown rice in my freezer for easy meals. Cooked farro (a whole grain popular in Italy) would be delicious, though it’s not gluten free like rice, so definitely keep that in mind if making this recipe gluten free is important to you. I also am dying to try these Italian stuffed peppers with orzo at some point! If you go that route, undercook the orzo a bit, as there will be some carryover cooking in the oven.
- For a low-carb option, you can make these Italian stuffed peppers without rice; swap cauliflower rice instead.
- Canned Diced Tomatoes. A pantry staple! These make the inside of the peppers tender and juicy. Look for no-salt-added diced tomatoes so that you can control the saltiness of your pepper.
- Italian Seasoning. This herb blend gives you a mix of dried herbs in every pinch. You can find it in the spice section of almost any grocery store.
- Red Pepper Flakes. I used a small pinch for flavor, but these Italian stuffed peppers are not hot. If you’d like truly spicy Italian stuffed peppers, add additional red pepper flakes or use a spicy Italian sausage in place of the ground chicken.
- Cheese. I recommend a mix of a gooey, melty cheese like Mozzarella and a sharp, nutty cheese like Parmesan. For a more elevated spin, try swapping the Mozzarella for fontina, smoked Provolone, or a mix.
- Fresh Herbs. I’m all about the basil here. Chopped fresh thyme or parsley would be nice too.
The Recipe Steps
- You won’t believe how easy it is to make this sophisticated and flavorful dish!
- Arrange your peppers cut-side up in a baking dish that’s lightly coated with nonstick spray. This recipe will yield 8 pepper halves. If all of your peppers don’t fit in one dish (as you can see from the photos, mine did not), you can bake the rest in a separate dish.
- Next, cook your chicken and spices together in a skillet until browned and cooked through. Pour in your can of diced tomatoes and let simmer for 1 minute.
- Remove the skillet from the heat, and stir in your grain of choice and part of the cheese. Fill each pepper half with the yummy mixture, and top with more cheese (yes, please).
- Add just enough water to the baking dish so it covers the bottom (this helps the peppers become tender), and bake the peppers for 30 to 35 minutes at 375 degrees F. Gooey, melted cheese on top and tender peppers means that it’s ready. Sprinkle on fresh basil, and DIG IN!
How to Freeze Stuffed Peppers
- Do You Freeze Stuffed Peppers Cooked or Uncooked? I recommend freezing these stuffed peppers after they’ve been cooked. Leftovers will be easy to reheat and serve for fast, healthy dinners.
- To Freeze. Place the baked Italian stuffed peppers in a freezer-safe container cut side up in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- To Reheat from Frozen. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. Reheat gently in the microwave or oven. To microwave, cut the peppers into a few pieces first to ensure that they warm evenly. For the oven, place the peppers on in baking dish cut side up and warm at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes.
What Is a Good Side Dish for Stuffed Peppers?
We usually enjoy these Italian stuffed peppers on their own. Since they offer protein, vegetables, and whole grains, it feels like a fairly wholesome, balanced meal.
That said, if you would like to serve something with the stuffed peppers, they go well with a number of sides:
- Vegetables. Roasted or sautéed veggies side dishes would pair nicely as a light side dish for the Italian stuffed peppers: Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Zucchini, or Sautéed Zucchini are three favorites. If you are roasting vegetables, you can place the sheet pan in the oven with the peppers.
- Salad. A big green salad is always a great side option for an Italian recipe! Try this Anytime Arugula Salad or Shaved Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad.
Or, (my personal favorite!) whip up some of these Italian Margaritas that are a delicious complement to the Italian stuffed peppers.
Recommended Tools to Make This Recipe
- 3-Quart Casserole Dish. This beautiful casserole dish is ideal for making stuffed peppers.
- Sharp Chef’s Knife. The ultimate kitchen tool that’s perfect for chopping these peppers.
While I love and will happily make Italian stuffed peppers year-round, if ever they were made for a moment, it is this one, the “season” where winter and spring collide. They’re light and fresh enough for a warm day, with enough comfort by way of stretchy, melty cheese to see us through the chilly temperatures.
Italian Stuffed Peppers
- 4 large red bell peppers
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound ground chicken or turkey
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes or up to ½ teaspoon if you like more spicy
- 1 can no salt added diced tomatoes with juices, 15 ounces
- 1 ½ cups cooked brown rice farro, quinoa, cauliflower rice, or orzo (if using orzo, undercook it slightly)
- 1 cup shredded Mozzarella provolone (or a mix)
- ½ cup Parmesan divided
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Slice the bell peppers in half from top to bottom. Remove the seeds and membranes then arrange cut side up in the prepared baking dish.
- Heat the olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add the chicken, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, and red pepper flakes. Cook, breaking apart the meat, until the chicken is browned and cooked through, about 4 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid, then pour in the can of diced tomatoes and their juices. Let simmer for 1 minute.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the rice (or farro) and ½ cup of the Mozzarella and ¼ cup of the parmesan. Mound the filling inside of the peppers, then top with the remaining cheeses.
- Pour a bit of water into the pan with the peppers—just enough to barely cover the bottom of the pan. Bake uncovered for 30 to 35 minutes, until the peppers are tender and the cheese is melted. Top with fresh basil. Serve hot.
- Keep leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat gently in the microwave or oven. For easiest reheating, cut the peppers into a few pieces first so that they warm evenly.
- Adapted from my Mexican Stuffed Peppers.
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