If there’s one food I could eat for every single meal, it would absolutely be pizza. Growing up with my dad and brother – who can seriously eat some food – I learned that when I ordered my cheese only Domino’s pizza, it required a “DO NOT EAT” sign on the leftovers. I’d wake up in the morning and savor my cold, delicious pizza for the second time around. And maybe even for lunch! So sue me!
Then, sadly, I became aware of the evils of regular pizza eating. Or maybe it was the beer drinking that usually preceeded the pizza eating. EITHER WAY. Don’t get me wrong, I can still throw down a pizza if I had to. Twist my arm. But my frequency of indulging in cheesy goodness was becoming a problem. And I found the solution. PIZZA PEPPERS. All the pizza flavor without the pizza guilt! Not so good for drunchies (“drunk-munchies” for my baby boomers out there), but great for a weeknight!
Variations! I’m a nerd when it comes to making things from scratch, so if making homemade pizza sauce is daunting, absolutely buy some at the store. Although this ‘za sauce is pretty bomb diggity. If you’re a veggie-hater, add extra pepperonis or even some bacon if you’re feeling *crazy*. If you’re a veggie-lover (like me), add some artichokes! Olives! Mushrooms! LOVE MUSHROOMS! Gluten free? Skip the pasta and add more MUSHROOMS! Def make extras, these keep well in the ‘fridgerator for a couple days and reheat in a flash.
Side note – didn’t know you could take sausage out of the casing until this recipe. GAME CHANGER for my stuffed pepper ideas. Double side note – if you wanted to lightly toss the peppers in olive oil and throw under the broiler for a hot second (Haha, punny) instead of boiling, that’s okay! Any way to soften up the peppers a little before the final baking is A-OK.
For all my pizza lovers out there – high five – I hope this calms your worries that it’s not physically possible to eat pizza every night. Good news, it is. And you’ll feel okay about it. And for under 400 calories? Enjoy that glass of cabernet with these bad boys. You earned it!
- 1½ cups low sodium tomato sauce
- 3 tbsp. tomato paste
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1½ tsp. basil (fresh or dry)
- 1½ tsp. thyme (fresh or dry)
- 1½ tsp. oregano (fresh or dry)
- 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp. salt, or to taste
- ½ tbsp. olive oil
- 3 large red bell peppers, deseeded, cut in half
- 1 sweet onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 cup uncooked veggie rotini pasta
- 3 cups fresh spinach (can use frozen too)
- 4 hot Italian chicken sausage links, casings removed
- ½ tbsp. olive oil
- ¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 12 pepperoni
- To prepare the sauce, heat olive oil in a sauce pan until shimmering. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Combine tomato sauce, paste, and spices and cook on low for about 15 minutes until flavors combine. Add salt as needed.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- While sauce cooks, boil water in a pasta pot - enough to cover all the pepper halves. Once boiling, add pepper halves and cook for about 5 minutes until softened. Remove peppers using tongs and place on baking sheet or casserole dish.
- While your pepper water is still boiling, cook your pasta according to package instructions. Drain when finished.
- In a large saute pan, heat remaining ½ tbsp. of olive oil. Add sausage, green peppers, and onions. Cook until slightly browned. Add pasta, raw spinach, and pizza sauce and combine.
- Fill your pepper halves with pizza filling. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese and two pepperonis per pepper.
- Bake in oven until cheese is melty - about 5 minutes.