~ "By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; Through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures." ~ "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing" ~ "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." ~ "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."~

Monday, July 16, 2012

Romanian Stuffed peppers... or "Ardei Umpluti"

Romanian Stuffed Peppers... or "Ardei Umpluti" Lately I've been cooking quite a bit more Romanian dishes than normal. I'm sure it's probably due to the fact that  I have so much flat leaf parsley growing in my garden. I don't know why, but I usually associate parsley with Romanian dishes. Just seems to me that Romanians tend to use parsley quite a bit... from meatballs, to soups, to stuffing various vegetables, and sprinkling parsley over all sorts of main dishes. But that's not to say that other countries don't use parsley... I suppose I could have made a Greek moussaka, or a Lebanese tabbouleh salad, or a French persillade sauce, or even an Italian parsley pesto. But somehow the Romanian version of stuffed bell peppers won out:). In any case, I thought it would be good to post this simple recipe for Romanian stuffed peppers. While I know I posted another stuffed pepper recipe before (the early years of blogging), this one is more of a traditional Romanian version.

I find most Romanian cookbooks expect you to have some cooking background when it comes to ingredients and directions accompanying most recipes. At least that's been my experience with some of the older cookbooks I have... like missing ingredients, and directions that are quite vague. I've even encountered recipes where the amount of liquid required to make a soup or sauce was left to one's own imagination.... even some bread dough recipes expect you to know exactly how much flour to add in order to get just the right consistency ("adauga faina cat cuprinde"). Oftentimes, certain recipes will let you even guess the oven temperature that's needed to bake the dish("se coace la foc portivit")... It's true, that for those with a bit more cooking experience, these "inconveniences" might not pose too much of a problem... can actually be figured out. But for beginners.... well,  it would make it difficult to use such information, and in the end, the cookbook may seem useless and uninspiring.

It took me years to finally understand the Romanian recipes in my cookbooks. At first glance, the recipes looked simple... short ingredient list, and directions written out in just a few sentences. Looked simple enough. Yet I always had questions... and because of that, the cookbooks remained on the shelf for years. So I've been wanting to post more Romanian recipes that are a bit easier to understand... just to have them on file, and in turn be of help to one or two others who are looking to try their hand at Romanian cooking. Funny thing is that I've even contemplated the idea of baking/cooking through an entire Romanian cookbook.... sounds doable, but I would sorely miss trying out various international cuisines. Maybe I could do both:). Hope you enjoy...

Note: I'm sure there are numerous versions of stuffed peppers... but this is a simple one. You can easily adapt  the recipe I posted below to fit your own taste or ingredients.  Use whatever meat you prefer, opt to use quinoa instead of rice... or any other grain for that matter. Feel free to use zucchini instead of bell peppers (even tomatoes will work)... and opt to bake the dish instead of cooking it on the stove top.

Tip: If you are looking to omit the carbs from rice, you could substitute an egg or two as it will "lighten" the meat mixture a bit.

You will need:

5 large bell peppers (any color)

Meat Mixture:

1/2 cup rice
2 cups water
pinch of salt

1.25 lbs ground chicken (or any meat you prefer)
1/2 large onion, grated
1 egg
3 TBS chopped parsley, or to taste
1 TBS tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
pepper, to taste

Tomato Sauce:

5 TBS olive oil (you could use butter)
1/2 onion, chopped fine
2 TBS flour*
7 TBS tomato paste
3 cups water + 1 cup water
salt to taste
* can use a gluten-free thickener, to make this dish gluten-free


sour cream
parsley, chopped


1. Cook rice... in a sauce pan, place rice and add water with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat to med-low and cook the rice until al-dente (about 7 minutes). Drain and set aside to cool.
2. Grind chicken and run onion through grinder. Alternately, use store-bought ground meat and grate onion(or finely dice) onion. Set aside.
3. Place ground meat and onion in a large bowl. Add egg, tomato paste, cooled rice, parsley, salt and pepper.
4. Mix the meat mixture thoroughly.
5. Cut bell pepper tops and remove core and seeds.
6. Stuff peppers with meat mixture and place in a large pot.

Make Sauce:

1. Heat saucepan on medium heat, and add oil. Add the diced onion and cook on med-low until onion becomes translucent and soft (6-8 minutes).... stirring every so often.
2. Mix tomato paste and 3 cups water and add to sauteed onions.
3. Cook sauce for an additional 5 minutes... and season with a few pinches of kosher salt.

Assemble and Cook Peppers: 

1. Pour the cooked tomato sauce over the stuffed peppers... making sure to get some sauce over the top of the meat mixture.
2. Place pepper "lids" on top of each pepper and add an additional 1 cup of water to the pot.
3. Bring the  pot up to a boil,  cover with a lid and lower heat to a simmer.
4. Cook for 50-60 minutes... or until peppers have softened and meat is completely cooked through. (you can remove pot lid and place in hot oven for an additional 5- 10 minutes if you prefer)
5.  Serve peppers with sour cream and chopped parsley... and plenty of sauce. I like to cut peppers in half and pour some sauce over the meat mixture... this way the sauce gives the meat extra flavor.


Speranta said...

Hi Ellie,ce frumos arata "Ardei Umpluti"Chiar mi-ai dat ideea sa
prepar si eu ...

O saptamana placuta iti doresc!

Ellie said...

Multumesc mult, Speranta!
Ardeii umpluti sant bine veniti acum in vara cand se gasesc pe piata... se pot face si numai la aragaz si fara cuptor( mai ales daca este cald). Oricum, sper sa iti placa si tie:)... Te pup, si o saptamana frumoasa tie la fel.

Chris Caldwell said...

This recipe is great. We've made it twice now, and I think it has earned its way into the regular dinner rotation list. We did a feature on Romanian cuisine on our blog and adapted this recipe with a link here. We threw in some chopped celery leaves with the meat mixture, and that was pretty good.

Keep up the great work!

Ellie said...

Chris, Oh, I'm so glad you enjoyed the stuffed peppers! It's a favorite in our house.

Thanks so much for your feedback... the celery leaves sound like an awesome addition. Will need to remember that next time:).

I went by your blog. Thanks for showcasing the Romanian cuisine... your peppers look great!. Thanks for the link back, I really appreciate it!

Sherry said...

I made this dish last weekend. It was so good and reminded me of my trip to Romania. I always like the detail and orgization of your recipes. Your version seemed so much easier than others ones that I have read and it tasted great so it will definitely be one to keep!
My family liked it, and my nephew said it reminded him of the sarmale not realizing they were Romanian (and your recipe) too. Thanks for another great recipe!

Ellie said...

Sherry, Oh, that's wonderful! It made my day to hear you share your feedback:).

So glad to hear that you tried the recipe:). This recipe is my husband's favorite, so I'm glad everyone enjoyed it! The nice part is that it's not too difficult to make.

I often make a vegetarian version using the same method... upping the rice/quinoa and adding plenty of veggies/mushrooms/etc.... I saute the veggie mixture to get more flavor.

Really appreciate you taking the time to comment, as I love hearing from my readers:). Thrilled the stuffed peppers were a success:).

Unknown said...

Eu am avut astazi ardei umpluti...a servit din ei o musafira germana,care nu cunoaste reteta romaneasca.I-a placut foarte mult,incat i-am dat restul de ardei ca sa ii ia acasa.Multa binecuvantare va doresc.

Ellie said...

Cetatea Scaparii,

Ma bucur ca ati putut impartasi o mancare romaneasca cu cei care au venit in vizita. Ardeii umpluti sant tare gustosi mai ales cand multumim Domnului pentru hrana care ne-o da zilnic. Ma-m bucurat sa aud ca la musafiri le-a placut asa mult... de a luat restul acasa! Frumos din partea voastra.

Binecuvantari ceresti va doresc la fel.

Anonymous said...

Chiar crezi ca e nevoice sa critici atit de mult temperaturile sau cantitatile in retetele pe care le-am mostenit de la familiile noastre? Pacat! Incearca sa-ti folosesti cunostintele dobindite si sa actualizezi reteta in loc sa o critici!!!

Ellie said...

Anon, Ah... poate ai dreptate. Am recitit ce am scris eu mai de mult, si parca ai dreptate ca nu suna prea positiv. Dar sa sti, ca am scris din experienta mea... inainte sa am " cunostintele dobandite". Am vrut sa scriu prin ce am trecut eu inainte sa "inteleg" retetele romanesti(nu necesar retete mostenite de la familia mea, dar cele scrise in carti )... stiind ca nu sant singura, pentruca multi mia scris ca au nevoie de ajutor in privinta retetelor scrise cu putine detaile. Deacea am si "actualizat" reteta pentru cei care au nevoie de ajutor si apreciaza retetele postate.

Oricum, eu iti multumesc ca ai luat din timp sa vizitezi blogul si sa imi scri parerile tale:). Nu mam suparat, dar sper ca ai fost totusi inspirat/a de vreo reteta:)
Iti doresc o zi frumoasa!