As promised, I recreated the Pepperoni Arrostiti that we so enjoyed at Trattoria Contadina. The cheese stuffed bell pepper uses three different Italian cheeses; mozzarella, asiago, and bel paese. In case you haven’t heard of bel paese before…
Bel Paese – Literally meaning “beautiful country”. This cheese was invented in 1929 by the Galbani Cheese Company in Lobardy. A wax rind covers the uncooked cheese made of pasteurized cow’s milk. The small discs have a soft texture and are peppered with small holes. Bel Paese appears pale with touches of creamy yellow. This cheese is similar to mozzarella or Fontina in its mild, buttery flavor but is distinct in its body and tang. Bel Paese is versatile and easily melted.
It took two tries to get this recipe just right. The first time, I took pictures. The second time, I forgot to do so. As a result, the pictures won’t reflect the light roasting of the peppers before cutting and filling with cheese. I decided this was needed because the peppers were not soft enough the first time around. After roasting lightly, they were the perfect texture… just as we’d enjoyed at the restaurant. Be certain to serve with a nice crusty Italian bread. Trust me, you’ll want it to sop up the tasty sauce.
3 yellow or orange bell peppers
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup grated bel paese cheese (substitute Fontina or Havarti)
1 cup grated asiago cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
32-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup chopped parsley, divided
Lightly roast the peppers by placing them on an open gas flame, turning them frequently with tongs until all sides are just beginning to lightly char. Do not char as black as usual for roasted peppers, you need the peppers to still be somewhat firm. Put the peppers in a plastic bag, and cool for about 10 minutes. Gently peel the peppers.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice off the top one-third of each pepper. You won’t be using the top of the pepper, so either save for another use or discard. Remove the seeds and ribbing from inside each pepper.
Pour 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in an 8×8-inch baking dish to coat the bottom. Place the bell pepper cups in the dish. Layer the bel paese, asiago, and then the mozzarella into the peppers, filling to the tops.
Bake peppers until cheese is entirely melted and peppers are nicely soft, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, in large skillet combine the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt, sauté until fragrant, for just a minute or less. Stir in tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in the vodka, return to heat and simmer for another minute to burn off some of the alcohol.
Remove from heat and pour into a blender, remove the pour spout cover to allow steam to escape, blend until nearly smooth.
Meanwhile, heat the half and half in the skillet, return tomato sauce to skillet and bring to a simmer. Stir in half of the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Fill the peppers with the sauce.
Transfer each baked bell pepper to a shallow bowl, pour the remaining sauce over bell peppers, dividing evenly between the bowls, garnish with remaining parsley and serve.