(“Verdure Ripiene”- “Virduri Chini”)
At Joe’s of Avenue “U”, the Focacceria
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
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
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.
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
Preheat the oven at 425 degree
Prepare marinara sauce. See recipe.
Cut the root end and peel the onions. Place in a baking dish, drizzle with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and bake for
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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