Stuffed Vegetables

 (“Verdure Ripiene”- “Virduri Chini”)

 

At Joe’s of Avenue “U”, the Focacceria  Palermitana, on Thursday our special was the stuffed vegetables.
We prepared zucchini stuffed with a light and delicate meat stuffing, red or yellow peppers stuffed with a robust combination of pork meat, cheese and fennel and onions stuffed with toasted breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley and with the hint of fresh oregano or marjoram.
We could never prepare enough and our regular customers reserved to eat in and to take out to their family.
The vegetables were stuffed with different fillings than baked and covered with marinara sauce; this dish goes well with a plain lettuce salad dressed with olive oil and a little lemon juice; it makes a fulfilling and complete dinner.
In my family we make the stuffed vegetable when we have guests, because it can be prepared in advance, it can be kept warm and ready to add the sauce at the last minute. Because marinara sauce is needed to complete this dish, in place of antipasto we usually prepare some ziti pasta with the tomato sauce in small portions - for being Sicilians: one pound of pasta to serve six.

 

 

Serves 6

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium size red or Italian onions
  • 3 medium size zucchini, firm and about 5 inches long
  • 6 red or yellow bell peppers with thick flesh
  • 1 portion of marinara sauce (1 can 28 oz. Italian peeled tomato)
  • ½ lb. chopped meat
  • 2 links of Italian sausages with fennels
  • ½ small loaf of Italian bread or 2 rolls, cut into cubes and soak in milk
  • 2½ cups of lightly toasted Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1½ cups of grated cheese
  • ½ cup of diced provola cheese
  • grating of nutmeg (optional)
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely minced
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon of pine nuts
  • 1 cup of olive oil
  • Fresh oregano or marjoram
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

          

Preparation

Preheat the oven at 425 degree 
Prepare marinara sauce. See recipe.

 

The Onions
Cut the root end and peel the onions. Place in a baking dish, drizzle with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and bake for 15 minutes.  
When onions are cool, using a pairing knife cut less than ½ inch from top and remove a few layers of the inner part of the onions. Place the 6 hollowed onions in an oiled baking pan and set on the side.
Chop and split in three parts the inner parts of the baked onion; it will be used in the stuffing.

 

                        Onions ready to be stuffed

  
To prepare filling for the onions, toss in a bowl the breadcrumbs, 3 tablespoons of olive oil,  one part of the chopped onions, one cup of the marinara sauce, ½ cup of grated cheese, 1 tablespoon of parsley, a teaspoon of oregano or marjoram, salt and pepper to taste. Toss, add 1 egg and mix it leaving the filling airy and light. Stuff the onions with the bread mixture and drizzle ½ tablespoon of olive oil over each.

 

The Zucchini
Using a brush, gently scrub the zucchini under running water to remove any sand or down, the soft feathery substance that grows on the soft skin of the zucchini. Drain and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Cut off the stems and cut lengthwise, remove the inside and reserve, leaving the stuffing zucchini with about a ¼ of an inch thick pulp.  Lightly sprinkle with salt and set on the side.
Drain the soaked bread and squeeze the milk out of it.  
In a sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons of oil, 1/3 of the chopped onions and place over a medium heat until light golden. Chop the inside flesh of the zucchini and add, turn and sauté for 2 or 3 minutes. Add ½ lb. chopped meat and cook until meat is brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from pan and add the soaked bread, 1 tablespoon of parsley, ½ cup of grated cheese, grating of nutmeg (optional), salt and pepper to taste. Toss, add 1 egg and mix it leaving the filling airy and light.

 

                       Stuffed Zucchini


If mixture results too soft or watery add some toasted breadcrumbs.
Fill the zucchini rounding the top over the brim. Place in an oiled baking pan and set on the side.
Any left over filling is used for the peppers.

 

The Peppers
Rinse the peppers, drain, and pat dry with a kitchen towel. 
Slice off the top, eliminate the seeds and interior parts; set on the side.
Discard the cores from the top and chop the pieces of peppers to be used in the stuffing.
In a sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons of oil, 1/3 of the chopped onions, the pieces of peppers and place over a medium heat until onions are lightly golden. Remove the casing from sausages, break them up and add to pan; cook them until brown, turning frequently.

 

                            Stuffed Peppers


Place in a bowl and add any left over zucchini filling, 1½ cups of toasted breadcrumbs, minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of parsley, and ½ cup of grated cheese, diced provola cheese, pine nuts, oregano or marjoram to taste, salt and pepper. Toss, add 1 egg and mix it leaving the filling airy and light.
Divide the filling into 6 portions, stuff the peppers, place in an oiled baking pan and set on the side.

 

The Baking
Drizzle the remaining oil on top of the stuffed vegetables and bake uncovered for 45 minutes. 
Serve one of each in a portion with marinara sauce at the bottom of the dish or on the side.

 

Note:
To transform this dish into a vegetarian meal, boil 1 cup of rice in salted water.
Use 1 cup of the cooked rice with a pinch of saffron or paprika, salt and pepper to taste and 1 teaspoon of olive oil or butter, to replace the beef in the stuffed zucchini.
In the stuffed peppers, use the remaining rice (about 1½ cups) to replace the sausages. Add to the rice 1 tablespoon of sun-dried tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and 1 teaspoon of olive oil or butter. Follow above directions.