~ All the magic of this Stuffed Pepper Casserole happens in just one pan … you don’t even have to pre-cook the quinoa! You can even prep it entirely ahead and bake it at dinnertime. It’s the kind of comfort food that makes dinnertimes special, and keeps you stress-free! ~
This Recipe: • Includes Make-Ahead Steps • Gluten Free •
Even on the busiest days, I try to make dinnertime a tiny oasis for my family. Nourishing food, a loving smile, a quick break in the action. No frills – and hey, jammy pants are totally welcome. What matters is the time together, even if it’s just a few, fleeting moments before the rest of the night rushes in to pull us all back in our own directions.
Creating that priceless moment feels like a tiny mommy win, any time I can actually make it happen.
No doubt, casseroles are a step in the right direction when it comes to creating a homey, comforting vibe. The word casserole should actually be spelled c-o-m-f-o-r-t.
Better yet if the casserole happens to have a little nostalgia laced in there, too … like this one, with a nod to the Stuffed Green Pepper recipes we all grew up eating.
Why This Stuffed Pepper Casserole Is a Win, Every Single Time
Seriously, this easy little casserole recipe pretty much ticks all my family dinnertime boxes.
√ It’s rich and hearty with savory sausage, juicy tomatoes, Italian seasonings and two kinds of melty cheese. (Yup – you heard that right – double cheese!)
√ Plus, it’s loaded with fiber, protein, and lots of veggies. We’ve even updated the traditional rice you find in most Stuffed Pepper Casserole recipes with superfood quinoa. This is seriously satisfying comfort food that won’t leave you feeling bogged down. And that you can actually feel good serving your family.
√ Amazingly, it all happens in one pan, with no pre-cooking. And hey hey there … just one dish to wash, too! In fact, since the meat, grains and veggies are all together there in one pot, it’s really a complete meal, all by itself. In.Out.Done … and get on with your night!
√ Bonus that it gives a modern twist to that other, treasured American family favorite dinner: Stuffed Green Peppers. (Pssssst … for an entirely different twist, check out our Un-Stuffed Pepper Skillet. 😉 )
Join the Casserole Revolution!
Here’s the thing about casseroles, though. They long ago got a bad rap for being unhealthy – full of gloppy, artery-clogging ingredients that most modern families just can’t feel good about anymore.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though! Today’s Stuffed Pepper Casserole is leading the way in the Casserole Revolution!
For me, what makes a casserole worth making is three things:
1) It has to actually be easy. If there are lots of pre-cooking steps before all the components end up in the pan together, then it’s somehow completely missed the point.
2) It has to be delicious. It’s not comfort food if it isn’t delicious. It’s just disappointment.
3) In my house, it also has to be healthy. Lots of classic (aka vintage 1950s) casseroles hung their hats on cream-of-anything soups, white carbs, fatty meats, and piles of full-fat cheeses. Comforting, yes. But in a way that makes you want to curl up for a long nap (while your sad little arteries clog up) … instead of powering your body up for the rest of the busy evening ahead.
This Italian Stuffed Peppers Casserole is comfort food you can feel good sharing with the people you care about most.
And it won’t take you all day to create that welcome-home-moment. Seriously – it’s so darn easy …
How To Make This QUICK Casserole
The ingredients are delightfully (deliciously!) simple.
Step 1 – Mix Up Your Flavorful Base, Right in the Baking Pan!
As I keep saying … one of the beauties of this recipe is that you don’t need to pre-cook the quinoa before adding it!
Just stir it right into the casserole dish, along with the chicken broth, canned tomatoes, and spices.
Lots of other quinoa recipes really miss a trick when they have you precook the quinoa first, before you mix it into your casserole (to cook again with the rest of the casserole).
It might sound silly, but that extra step – those extra few minutes – well, sometimes that’s just more than I have time for. And that’s a recipe that gets skipped over – that I never quite get around to actually making.
This clever recipe has enough liquid, so that the quinoa does its own cooking step all by itself, right along with the rest of the casserole! It soaks up all that extra liquid to turn out fluffy, and infused with lots of Italian flavor!
(Psssst … if you love this little time-saving, no-pre-cooking trick, you’re gonna love some of our other recipes that do the exact same thing, like our Stuffed Zucchini Boats Casserole with Italian Sausage and Quinoa and our Chicken Fajita Quinoa Bake. And this hack isn’t just for quinoa! I use it to shave time and work off of recipes that use rice and pasta, too, like our Easy, Cheesy 5-Ingredient Pizza Pasta Bake, and our One-Pot Mexican Rice Skillet Dinner and our One-Pot Whole-Wheat Spring Pasta with Asparagus, Peas and Parmesan.)
Step 2 – Cut Your Peppers and Stuff ’Em
Next, cut your bell peppers into large planks, instead of leaving them whole, as in many other stuffed pepper recipes.
This makes portions easier to adapt and scale up or down, since you don’t necessarily need an entire pepper for each person.
Press a bit of the Italian sausage into each piece of pepper (kind of like a yummy little pepper boat filled with savory Italian deliciousness)!
Step 3 – Sprinkle … and Then Bake (You’re DONE!)
All that’s left is the cheese (yum). Sprinkle just the stuffed peppers with shredded Italian cheeses, so each pepper gets its own melty topping.
Then sprinkle a snowy cascade of flavorful parmesan over the entire casserole.
And into the oven it goes! DONE!
Prep Ahead (for Dinnertime Serenity)
Wanna know a little dinnertime success secret? Prep ahead!!
You can completely assemble this casserole earlier in the day. Stash it in the fridge until you’re ready to bake it at dinnertime. Walk away. Forget about dinner. You’ve already got it covered. Yay you!
My entire day feels sooooo much less stressful when I know I’ve already gotten dinner sorted out, ready to slip in the oven. I feel a little more relaxed all day long when I have a recipe like this one on deck, and I’ve already gotten the prep work out of the way.
I can actually focus on enjoying my family, as we set the table and calmly serve up a home cooked meal!
And then … I do a little happy dance inside when all that serious lack of effort wins high praise and lots of yummy-smiles! Shhhh … it can be our little secret how easy this all was. Let’s just bask in the compliments! 😉
So, besides being so darn easy, why else are you gonna feel great serving this?
Well, this casserole showcases a couple nutritious upgrades (that you can use in other recipes you make, too) …
Leveraging a Superfood Hero in Comfort Food Cooking
So, one of my updates to “traditional” Stuffed Pepper Casserole recipes is that I swapped out the usual rice … for quinoa.
It’s much more nutritious, loaded with healthy little goodies like fiber, potassium, magnesium and iron. You can read more about quinoa in our article How To Cook Quinoa (and Why You Should!).
But what’s most uniquely fantastic about quinoa is that it’s one of the only plants that has all the amino acids needed to be a complete protein. And, it has a very high ratio of protein to carbohydrates. Plus, the carbs it does have are complex carbs, so quinoa will help you feel full longer, and it’s a better source of sustained energy than simple carbs like white rice. (This is the exact same swap we use in our updated riff on Crock-Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup – works like a charm.)
Get that powerhouse quinoa mixing and mingling with lots of veggies (hello, bell peppers and lycopene-rich tomatoes), and leaner sausage … and you’ve got a winning, absolutely delicious combination!
But while we’re at it, let’s talk for just one more minute about that leaner sausage. And why I want you to pick turkey sausage here (and in your other recipes, too), instead of regular pork sausage.
Healthy Ingredient Tip: Lower-Fat Turkey Sausage Is a Foolproof Swap
It’s a no-brainer: using Italian turkey sausage in this casserole, instead of regular, full-fat pork sausage.
Italian turkey sausage still has loads of great, savory flavor.
What it doesn’t have is so many calories, and so much fat … particularly the really unhealthy, artery-clogging kind.
I leverage this healthy swap all the time in my cooking, like in my recipes for Farmers’ Market Italian Sausage-Tortellini Soup and Crock-Pot Crazy Pineapple Chili and Parmesan Spaghetti Squash with Italian Sausage.
It’s an easy nutritional upgrade to this casserole, and a great little tip you can try on your own recipes at home, too!
Make It Your Own
Part of the joy of serving your family a homemade, comforting dinner is that feeling of accomplishment that you did this for them. Even when you had almost no time to make it happen … you did make it happen. It’s a little hug from you … to them.
So, don’t be afraid to really own this Stuffed Pepper Casserole recipe. Play around and make it your own! Here are a few ideas for ya:
→ Use a variety of different colored peppers. You can go all traditional with a Stuffed Green Peppers look … or add in some red like we did in our pics. Or yellow … or orange … or all of the above!
→ Got spicy-heat-lovers at your table? Then kick this up with hot Italian turkey sausage, instead of the mild, sweet sausage we call for on the recipe card.
→ Swap in zucchini boats, in place of some of the peppers. Wait … what??? Yup! Maybe not everybody in your family is a fan of Stuffed Peppers (is that possible???). No problem – give them another option! Just like we do in our Stuffed Zucchini Boats Casserole: simply sub out some of the pieces of bell pepper for halves of small zucchini, then pile on the sausage and cheese in exactly the same way. Kinda like two different meals in one pot!
This truly is a meal in one, with the veggies, grains and proteins all in one warm and cozy pan. There’s really no need for much else to complete the meal. Maybe a crisp green salad or some sweet, fresh fruit if you’d like.
A couple of our favorite recipes that would be great alongside your Stuffed Peppers are:
- Tuscan Kale Salad with Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Grape Salad with Cream Cheese-Vanilla Dressing
- And if you want to take this comfort food meal and elevate it a bit, by offering up an appetizer people can nibble on as the whole family straggles in and settles around the table … try our Easy Polenta with Fresh Mozzarella and Balsamic Tomatoes. With its light, savory Italian flavors, it’d be a nice starter.
But the most important thing to serve this with?
That relaxed smile you’ll have, as you easily get dinner on the table – on time, no stress, and to rave reviews.
No doubt – comfort food is at its very most comforting when the cook is relaxed enough to enjoy it, too.
So truly … enjoy this recipe, and the snapshot of family togetherness you create at dinnertime (even if just for a brief oasis of precious time in the middle of a busy evening).
- 1 1/2 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa (rinsed if needed – see note)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 medium bell peppers, cored/seeded and quartered lengthwise (whichever colors you prefer)
- 8 ounces sweet Italian turkey sausage (bulk, or links with casings removed)
- 1/2 cup reduced-fat shredded Italian cheese blend
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- optional for serving: a light sprinkle of fresh, minced basil
Preheat oven to 400°F.
In an ungreased 9x13" baking pan, combine broth, tomatoes with their juice, uncooked quinoa, dried basil, oregano, garlic powder, and salt. Stir until thoroughly combined.
Top each pepper section with a thin layer of the sausage, pressing a bit of sausage all along each piece of pepper. Lay each sausage-topped pepper, cut side up, in the baking dish on top of the quinoa mixture.
Sprinkle the Italian cheese blend on top of the sausage (it's ok if a bit of the cheese falls down onto the quinoa mixture, but you're trying to get most of it piled on top of the sausage). Sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the entire casserole.
Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking, uncovered, for about 20-25 minutes more, until quinoa is cooked through, peppers are done to your liking (we like ours slightly less cooked), and cheese is melty and starting to turn a little golden brown in spots.
Serve immediately, garnished with a bit of minced basil for a pretty presentation, if desired.
Quinoa: If your quinoa is not pre-rinsed, then before you add it to the casserole, you will need to rinse it in a sieve, swishing it with your fingers until the water runs clear. We always look for pre-rinsed brands to save that step.
Make-ahead tips: You can completely assemble this casserole earlier in the day, then cover and refrigerate it until you're ready to bake it at dinnertime.