In an Italian family like mine, pasta is a cooking essential. While some households have rice or potatoes as their “go-to” starch, the pantry in our home is a sort of Italian arsenal chock-full of rigatoni, linguine, cappellini, farfalle, ditalini and more. Because of the versatility of pasta, the dinner options are endless. You can serve your pasta cold as a salad, bake it into a warm casserole or let it soak up the flavors of a hearty chicken soup. You can also choose from a wide selection of shapes and sizes.
One unique pasta that our family enjoys is called orzo, a type of “pastina” or “little pasta.” Its name, which in Italian means “barley,” is derived from the shape of the noodle. While orzo does not actually contain barley, its tiny size resembles the grain. Orzo is also a super absorbent pasta because it is made from semolina flour, which comes from durum wheat. The wheat gives it a hearty texture and allows the pasta to absorb and retain the flavors of the ingredients around it.
One of our family’s favorite dishes is “orzo stuffed peppers.” This dish is quick and easy. It requires only one pot and pan. The meal is the perfect combination of comforting cheesy, garlic-y pasta and healthy bell peppers, spinach and tomatoes.
These orzo stuffed peppers are loaded with nutrition. Bell peppers are an incredible source of Vitamin C. In fact, peppers provide nearly triple the amount of Vitamin C that oranges provide. Additionally, the spinach in this dish is a great source of fiber and rich in many vitamins, such as iron and calcium. Spinach is great for eye health and also reduces stress and blood pressure, which could come in handy during these last few weeks of school. Lastly, the tomatoes in this dish provide numerous health benefits. Like peppers, tomatoes are also a great source of Vitamin C and quite beneficial for heart and skin health.
This recipe uses about six peppers, leaving you with yummy leftovers for the week to pop in the oven or microwave for a quick dinner option. This weekend, I invite you to join the Italians in our crazy love of pasta and reap the health benefits of the fruits and veggies in these delicious orzo stuffed peppers.
Orzo Stuffed Peppers Recipe:
6 medium – large sweet bell peppers (red, yellow, orange)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
10 – 12 oz. fresh organic baby spinach
14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes (Red Gold brand) with juice (not drained)
32 oz. organic chicken stock
16 oz. pkg. Barilla orzo pasta (rice-shaped pasta)
8 oz. pkg. shredded Italian 6-Cheese Blend (Sargento)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Remove the stems from the peppers. Slice each in half (top to bottom to make 2 boat shaped peppers). Remove all ribs and seeds and wash peppers well.
Place the peppers (cut side up) in a 13×9 pan and bake uncovered for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven to cool. Pat dry the peppers with paper towel and remove and dry any liquid in the pan.
In a large soup pot, over medium heat, sauté the garlic and the spinach in the olive oil until spinach is wilted.
Add in the can of tomatoes with juice and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
Add the chicken stock. Raise heat and bring to boil.
Add in the orzo pasta and cook for 9 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Stir frequently to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Remove from heat.
Stir in the cheese. Mix well.
Spoon pasta mixture into the peppers.
Spoon any additional filling over and around the peppers.
Cover the pan with foil and bake for approximately 30 minutes.
Serve and enjoy!