This past 9 months on my weight loss journey, I’ve really gotten into studying food. One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most is learning how to make some of our favorite foods healthier and how to incorporate some of the flavors we love into dishes that are good for us. So far, I like to think, so good.
It’s funny because I think over the years healthy food has gotten a bad reputation as being bland and boring. Sure, there are some healthy foods that can be described that way, but I really think that for the most part, you can eat healthy food and make it exciting! Just because it’s good for your body doesn’t mean it can’t be good for your taste buds too!
That’s where recipes like this one come into play. Lasagna is such a comfort food with all the cheese and carby pasta. But it’s not necessarily the best for you. So I took all those comfort-food ingredients and scaled it down into a healthy stuffed pepper, and can I just say this dish was such a winner! My husband immediately asked for it to go straight into the dinnertime rotation.
I used turkey sausage which is a healthy swap. I also swapped the ricotta cheese for cottage cheese, which is way lower in calories and pumped up with protein. Make sure to use the small curd cottage cheese and you won’t be able to tell the difference. Each pepper only had about a half a lasagna noodle in it, so I don’t even count those.
I made four peppers (one of each color), but there was a little leftover filling, so you could probably actually get about 5 or 6 out of the batch.
Lasagna-stuffed Bell Peppers
4 bell peppers (I used one of each color, but feel free to use what you want)
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 links Italian Turkey sausage, removed from casing (I used mild, but you can use sweet or hot depending on how spicy you want it)
1 15oz can reduced sodium diced tomatoes
1 8oz can reduced sodium tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried basil (or two fresh)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 cups small curd, low fat cottage cheese
2 tablespoons fresh basil (I used that basil paste I found. I’m really starting to like this stuff!)
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
3-4 lasagna noodles, cooked
Low fat shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat the oven to 350.
Remove the tops of the bell peppers and clean out the insides. Stand them up in a baking dish and bake for 20 minutes to start softening. When you buy your peppers, make sure you try to get nice rounded ones with sturdy bottoms, not long skinny ones.
While the bell peppers are baking, boil the noodles. I put about a ¾ a noodle total in each pepper, but I ended up boiling more than I needed, just in case. I’m sure it will depend on the size of your peppers and how many layers you can fit in there.
Meanwhile, in a skillet add a tablespoon or so of olive oil over medium high heat. Add your chopped onions and garlic and cook until soft and fragrant. Add a little salt while cooking, about 1 teaspoon or so.
Add the sausage to the onion/garlic mixture and break up with a spatula. Cook until browned and most of the pink is gone. You can also use regular ground beef or turkey or chicken. You can use any sort of sausage you like. You can even leave the meat out altogether and make this vegetarian.
Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, basil, and oregano and a pinch of salt. Stir together and reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
When you remove the bell peppers from the oven, check to see if any water accumulated in the bottom of the peppers. If so, just dump it out.
Now, just layer all your parts into each pepper. I started with some of the sauce/meat mixture, then a spoonful of the cottage cheese mixture, then a noodle. Repeat, ending on meat mixture. Finally, top with some shredded mozzarella. Put as little or as much as you want. Live a little.
Put the peppers back in the oven for another 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and gooey and golden brown on top.
Let them sit for about 5 minutes after removing them from the oven so they can set up a bit. This is sort of a messy dish anyway, but letting the juices redistribute helps a little.