Meatball-Stuffed Peppers with Spinach and Garlic
Prepare red peppers stuffed with a spinach meatball mixture and topped with tomato sauce early in the day to leave time for entertaining your guests!
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), for drizzling, plus 4 tablespoons, divided
- 6 cloves garlic, 2 thinly sliced, 4 minced or finely chopped
- 1 small onion, peeled and halved
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 can San Marzano tomatoes (28-32 ounces)
- 1 can crushed tomatoes (14 ounces)
- Salt and pepper
- A pinch of sugar
- A few leaves of fresh basil, torn
- 4 red bell peppers, tops removed, seeds scraped and bottoms trimmed to sit upright
- 4 1/2-inch-thick slices good-quality white bread or Italian bread, crusts trimmed
- Whole milk, for soaking bread, 1-1 1/2 cups
- 1 pound ground veal or ground lamb or meatloaf mix (beef, pork and veal)
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, drained well and finely chopped
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus some for topping peppers (a handful)
- Pre-heat the oven to 425°F.
- Heat 2 tablespoons EVOO, two turns of the pan, in a saucepot. Add the sliced garlic and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add the onion, bay leaf and tomatoes; break them up with a spoon and season with salt, pepper and sugar. Simmer for 25-30 minutes at a low bubble to thicken and break down the tomatoes. Remove the onion and bay; stir in a couple of leaves of the basil. If the sauce thickens too quickly, add a splash of water.
- Drizzle the peppers with EVOO and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes; remove and cool to handle.
- Cover the bread with milk in a small bowl to soak.
- Heat the remaining EVOO, two turns of the pan, in a skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Lightly brown and crumble the meat with the chopped garlic, then transfer to a bowl and cool. Wring out the bread and crumble into crumbs. Add to the meat along with the eggs and spinach. Season with salt, pepper and a few grates of nutmeg. Add the cheese, top with 1 cup of tomato sauce and mix to combine.
- Fill the peppers with the meat mixture and smooth off the tops. Pour the remaining sauce around and over the peppers, sprinkle with a little more cheese and roast for 20-25 minutes.