Turkey Sausage and Orzo Stuffed Peppers

I have been promising to post some of my "healthified" recipes but making excuses for my red meat lovers in the house. Well two things happened, my son started dating a sweet girl that HATES red meat and well, I just decided to put my foot down. OK so I did it quietly but put it down nonetheless.

I was really excited to switch this recipe up. This is one that I have been making for a few years now. It is the love child of an Emeril recipe mixed with a Giada one. Now adding the turkey sausage has made it even better!

Kevin was a huge help in prepping this because I am such a procrastinator. I have never actually written this recipe down. I just go off the two recipes I mentioned above and I know what I use and don't use and how I tweak it here and there. He wanted to help me cook but I had to write everything out as we went along. So bless his heart he again was my awesome sous chef and prepped just about everything while I pulled my hair out trying to write everything down so it would make sense to someone to other than myself. Most people would not get my short hand, sometimes it confuses me!

Stuffed peppers were one of those things that, when I first set out to make them, my kids said, "Eeeewwww". I also wasn't happy with just the typical ground beef with rice recipe with marinara sauce. I knew I wanted the kids to try it (Seth loves it now, Jessi just eats the stuffing and leaves a poor little discarded pepper shell), plus I wanted to add some punch to the ingredients. Psssst I also added extra veggies but don't tell the kids!

Turkey Sausage and Orzo Stuffed Peppers

6 large sweet bell peppers (red, orange, or yellow)
1 (28-ounce) can of Italian tomatoes
2 zucchini, grated
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese plus 1/4 cup for topping
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 orzo (rice shaped pasta)
1 pound turkey sweet Italian sausage ( I used Jennie-O)
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Pour the tomatoes in a large bowl and break apart using your fingers or potato masher. Add the zucchini, cheese, olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir to combine.

Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the orzo and cook 7 minutes, just shy of al dente. The orzo will continue to cook in the oven. Use a fine mesh sieve to transfer the orzo to the large bowl with the vegetables, reserving the chicken stock. Stir to combine the orzo and veggies and pour the chicken stock into a 3 quart baking dish.

Cut off the top of each pepper. Scoop the seeds and ribs out from inside each pepper. If peppers will not stand up use a knife to shave off a bit of the bottom to make it even. Set peppers into backing dish with the chicken stock.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, crumble and brown the turkey sausage until it is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Add the onions and minced garlic. Saute until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the paprika, cayenne, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper to taste. Add the orzo mixture and cook for about a minute to warm. Remove from the heat and spoon the mixture into the peppers.

Mix 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano with the 1/4 bread crumbs and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves. Sprinkle cheese mixture on top of each stuffed pepper. Drizzle melted butter on each pepper and place baking dish in the oven. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops are crusty and brown and warmed through. Serve hot.

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