Stuffed Roasted Red Peppers

I don't usually like to play favorites with my recipe creations, but this one was a standout. Nothing crazy and super sophisticated, just simple ingredients that worked together really well to create a very satisfying meal. Lately, it seems that I've been on a huge roasted red pepper kick. I'm not sure where this strong craving came from but it I can't get enough of these delicate sweets.  And they are so versatile!  Perfect melted in between some fresh mozzarella and tomatoes on a sandwich, fantastic on a pizza, great swimming in a flavorful soup and even excellent all on there own.  Is there anything that the little roasted red pepper can't do? 

Looking back on a lot of my recipes, it seemed that my humble little roasted red pepper played the supporting role to another main ingredient.  For this dish, I wanted to change that.  I wanted the pepper front and center, the star of the show.  To start, I roasted the red pepper and then peeled the skins off, creating a tender little edible bowl.  I then made a rice and mixed it with a rustic, thicker than usual pesto sauce and fresh toasted pignolis (or pine nuts, which I left whole because I love the subtle little pop that they make when you bite into them)  I then stuffed the rice into the roasted peppers and topped them with cheese and then baked it again until the cheese got all bubbly and melty.

This dish makes a wonderful addition to any recipe box because it is quick, easy and so versatile.  You could also add sausage or prosciutto to the rice before baking it again or you could mix in some chopped up spinach for a more rustic taste.  You could even use a store bought pesto sauce in a pinch.  The options here really are endless.  As with all of my recipes, I advise you to give them a shot and tweak them to your liking.

Stuffed Roasted Red Peppers
- 3 medium sized red bell peppers
- 2 cups of cooked rice (I just made some plain rice using my rice machine and cooked in chicken stock instead of water to give it a great flavor)
- About 2 cups of fresh basil
~ 1/8 - 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
- A small handful of pignolis (pine nuts), toasted
~1/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
~ 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste

Start by cutting the tops off of the roasted red peppers and gently scrape the seeds out.  Lay them flat on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Broil them in the oven until they are heavily spotted brown and black.  Carefully, so not to tear the pepper, rotate it and let that side darken.  Repeat for all four sides until the peppers have become softer.  Remove from the heat and place them them in large bowl, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.  Set them aside to let them steam. 

Meanwhile, with a food processor or hand blender, combine the basil, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese until an chunky paste has formed (I recommend smelling the pesto at this point because it smells AWESOME).  Stir in the rice and add the pignolis.  Mix until all combined.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

Take the plastic wrap off of the peppers and gently peel away the skin that by this point, has started to separate from the pepper.  Once all of the skin is removed, scoop the rice into the hollowed out pepper and top each one with mozzarella cheese.  Bake the stuffed peppers in the oven until the cheese melts. 

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