The Extra Step Ree Drummond Takes When Making Stuffed Peppers

Crunchy, raw bell peppers are delicious when paired with homemade hummus or garden salads. However, when it comes to  a stuffed pepper recipe, many prefer the veggie to be on the softer side. While this dish is mostly easy to prepare, getting the peppers and the filling to cook at the same rate can be surprisingly difficult. Luckily, Food Network's Ree Drummond has figured out how to streamline the process, and all you need is a little water.

In most stuffed pepper recipes, once the filling is hot and the cheese topping is melted, the peppers are still pretty firm or even crunchy. When preparing her recipe in the video above, Drummond fills the hollowed-out veggies with a pre-cooked filling, then adds some water to the bottom of the baking dish to help the peppers steam and soften while they bake. 

There are other methods to use to make sure your bell peppers turn out soft, but Drummond's may be the simplest. Some recipes instruct you to blanch the peppers first in boiling water, then submerge them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process, so they don't get too soggy. You could also pre-roast the peppers to achieve the same effect. While these methods get the job done, they an extra step and more time to your dinner prep than Drummond's trick.

It doesn't take much water to create steam

To create an extra-hot environment for the peppers to cook in, Ree Drummond covers the baking dish with foil to trap the steam that rises from the food. The extra heat and moisture speeds up the softening process. The tough skin of the peppers should keep them from absorbing water and becoming soggy, but you still should be mindful of how much water you add. You want to create enough steam, but too much water can overflow or might slosh into the peppers as you remove them from the oven. A half cup of water should do for a pan of six peppers. 

If your filling includes anything that would release moisture while it cooks (like tomatoes or zucchini), take the time to cook them down before you add them to the rest of your ingredients. Doing so will lessen the chance that your filling will turn soupy. Conversely, you can also increase the amount of starchy ingredients in the filling, like rice, which will absorb excess moisture. Always pre-cook your rice or use leftovers, as uncooked rice may not fully cook by the time the peppers are done. 

A world of flavors with stuffed peppers

Old-fashioned stuffed peppers are pretty basic, usually consisting of a ground beef and rice filling with a tomato sauce and cheese topping. However, Ree Drummond's version introduces a delicious Italian spin. She opts for Italian sausage as the meat option and cooked pasta in place of rice. While she uses ditalini, a very small pasta shape, you could substitute orzo or fresh, silky grattini. Drummond also incorporates marinara sauce, ricotta, and mozzarella cheese into the filling, topping the peppers with more mozzarella before they go into the oven.

To experiment further, you can give stuffed peppers a Mexican flair by flavoring ground beef or chicken with taco seasoning and adding beans, corn, and salsa, garnishing them with cotija cheese, sour cream, and guacamole. Greek-inspired peppers might include ground lamb, spinach, feta cheese, and canned tomatoes. Stuffed peppers don't even need any meat to be tasty. Wild rice and grains like bulgur or couscous make hearty bases for the filling, and can be flavored with a variety of spices and vegetables. No matter which recipes you dream up, Drummond's water addition will work to create perfectly soft peppers with no extra time or hassle.