There’s no better way to prepare banana peppers than to stuff them with a meat mixture. Braised in a simple tomato sauce, they taste heavenly. I love to specifically use banana peppers for this dish because they are a bit smaller than traditional bell peppers and they have a nice bitterness to them.
I know that a lot of people don’t like the bitter varieties of peppers. A lot of recipes even specify to not use green bell peppers for stuffing. But I think there’s no better way to make this dish because the bitterness cuts nicely through the richness of the meat and sweetness of the tomato sauce. Cooked that way, the banana peppers remind me of bitter melon, a lovely Asian vegetable that is also commonly stuffed with minced meat.
It’s very important that your meat mixture is tender and not too dense. To achieve that you either have to add cubed bread or rice. For stuffed banana peppers, rice is the most common choice. The rice should be pre-cooked. Even if it would cook through while braising, you need to bear in mind that cooked rice expands quite a lot. There’s simply no space for it stuffed inside the banana pepper.
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Sear the stuffed banana peppers to develop a nice crust
It’s important to sear the banana peppers on all sides to deepen the flavor. You don’t need to crank up the heat crazy high. They will darken further on the side that remains exposed in the oven.
The tomato sauce is simple. It’s just tomato paste and canned tomatoes with a bit of oregano. It’s important that you add the sugar to the sauce and eventually adjust the sugar content after braising. Some of the bitterness of the banana peppers will penetrate the sauce. You will need the sugar to balance the bitterness as well as the acidity of the tomatoes.
It’s best to serve these stuffed banana peppers with some more rice or bread on the side to soak up the excess sauce.
a handful of freshly chopped dill leaves, for garnishing
Preheat your oven to 430 °F (180 °C).
Stuff the peppers:
Heat the butter in a small nonstick pan over medium heat and sweat the onion and garlic cloves for 3-4 minutes until translucent.
In a mixing bowl, combine the minced meat, onion, garlic, rice, egg, dill, savory, and sweet paprika powder. Season the filling to taste with spicy paprika powder and salt.
Stuff the filling tightly into your banana peppers.
Sear the peppers:
Heat the clarified butter over medium-high heat in a large saute pan and sear the peppers on all sides until lightly golden all around. Take the seared peppers out of the pan and lower the heat.
If needed, add some more clarified butter, then roast the tomato paste for about 1 minute. Add the whole can of peeled tomatoes along with 1 cup of water. Bring to a light simmer and season the sauce with sugar, oregano, and salt to taste. Remember that the sauce will reduce a little in the oven. So go easy on the salt. You can always add more at the end of the cooking process.
Braise the peppers in the oven:
Place your banana peppers in one even layer in the sauce so that they are covered a little more than halfway with sauce. Place the saute pan in the middle rack of your preheated oven and let the bell peppers braise for about 45 minutes.
Serve your peppers:
Sprinkle the braised peppers with a handful of fresh dill leaves and serve with bread or rice on the side.