Biggest Loser Stuffed Peppers, and Pasta with Marinara and Homemade “Parmesan”
How Long will this take?
- Time from start to finish: 1 hour if tempeh is already marinated, at least 2 if not
- Labor time: 45 minutes if tempeh is already marinated, 1 hour if not
How many ingredients are there and what kind?
- There’s quite a few, but if the tempeh is already marinated and/or you have some “parmesan” already made, that cuts the amount down a lot.
- Even with all the ingredients, they’re pretty pantry-friendly, meaning you probably won’t have to substitute or pick up any from the store.
How bad is the clean up?
- All clean up is contained to pots/pans, cutting board, and dishes.
- There is some down time towards the end of the cooking process that allows for a head start on clean up.
What can be made ahead?
- Marinara Sauce
- Marinading Tempeh
What’s the plan?
- Marinate the tempeh, then wait until you’re happy with how long it has marinated until you continue
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
- Make the marinara sauce and simmer
- Cut the peppers
- Grate the cheese
- Prepare the tempeh crumble
- Start boiling the water for the noodles
- Assemble the peppers and place them in the oven
- Boil the spaghetti
- Make the “parmesan”
- Assemble plates
Some Back Story
I call these peppers “Biggest Loser Stuffed Peppers” because I got the idea watching an episode of Biggest Loser. Make fun of me all you want for watching junk TV, but I can defend myself. I like the show because, unless you’re watching a re-run of Roseanne, this is pretty much the only place on TV you can find positive portrayals of working class people that you want to root for and support. I also think the show, although focusing on people not being fat anymore, doesn’t play to fat phobia and stereotypes anywhere near as much as it could. In fact, often times it can challenge anti-fat stereotypes by showing the contestants in a more holistic way, highlighting that what made them fat is not that they’re lazy and glutenous, but other challenges in their life that we can all relate to. It’s far from fat-positive, I know that. But I like seeing those contestants on the show that are working class given a chance to beat so many of the illnesses that disproportionately plague us, while counting how much time with their family they’ve added on to their life. So, there.
I do dislike a few aspects of the show. Most awful are the nutrition “tips.” They’re just commercials for animal products. On this show, Hannah from the previous season came on to make a stuffed pepper that was filled with animal products. It’s so frustrating that plant-based meals are not put forth as a strategy to reduce the risk of diabetes, heart attacks, and high blood pressure, even though there’s plenty of evidence to support that. So I subverted the peppers to make them tastier and healthier.
Having the tempeh prepared ahead is very helpful, but it’s not too much trouble to whip together the marinade. This past weekend, the family went to our friends’ Blessing Way. It’s an indigenous ceremony that gathers friends and family to share their wishes and prayers for the new life about to join us. It was a very beautiful gathering to show this new member of our community how happy we are that they’ve chosen us to be in their life. For the meal afterward, I marinated ten packages of tempeh. I ended up only having time to cook about half of that, and even that was more than enough. I completely over estimated what amount of tempeh would be both manageable and appropriate. So we have a fridge full of marinating smokey tempeh, which also added to the inspiration for the peppers.
To save space on this page, check out the smokey tempeh recipe from a previous post. Only follow the steps around boiling the tempeh and marinading it, not cooking it. Consult the stuffed pepper recipe below to figure out how much you’ll need.
Enough sauce for 4-6 servings
- 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1-2 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
Pre-heat a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the oil and garlic. Saute for a quick minute. Add all the other ingredients, raise heat, cover, and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, lower to the lowest heat setting you can, keep covered, and let simmer until you’re ready. If you get side tracked and the sauce gets too dry, mix in water spoonful by spoonful until it’s the right consistency.
People like eating their garlic in slices. It’s true. Using chopped and sliced garlic makes the sauce look classy, with all its slices, but has all the flavor of chopped garlic.
In a saucepan, boil as much water as you’ll need to cover the noodles. Once, boiling, add a serving of noodles for each person into the water. Stir until the long noodles are all under water. Cover, boil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once cooked, drain the noodles in a strainer, and shock them (run cold water over them to stop them from cooking further). Return to saucepan until ready to assemble the final plate.
Biggest Loser Stuffed Peppers
Each pepper feeds one to two people. The recipe below is for one pepper. Multiply as you need.
- 1 green or red pepper, seeded and cut in half
- 5 pieces of marinaded tempeh
- 1 spoonful of marinara sauce
- grated vegan cheese
In a small bowl, crumble the tempeh until the pieces are a bit smaller than bite size. Add the marinara sauce and mix.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spoon tempeh into each pepper, packing in as much as you can. Sprinkle with cheese to your liking. I use Follow Your Heart Vegan Mozzarella, and just grated a bit using a grater. I was really into Daiya for the first few months after it came out, but now I’m over it. I think it ruins every food it touches, no matter how well it melts. Teese is my favorite , but I can never find it out here. However, Follow Your Heart never lets me down.
Place peppers onto a cooking tray, place in oven, and cook for 35 minutes.
- 1/3 cup of unsalted almonds (I used raw almonds)
- 1 tbs sesame seeds, toasted or not
- 1 tbs nutritional yeast
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp dried lemon zest
In a food processor (clean coffee grinder works best here), grind up the almonds and sesame seeds until they’re a fine dust. There may be a few almond chunks that just won’t be ground, and it’s fine to just take those out.
Empty the almond/sesame dust into a small jar, or whatever other container you want to store it in. Add the nutritional yeast, salt, and zest, and stir. “Parmesan” can be stored an airtight container without refrigeration.
You can call this whatever you want: almesan, rawmesan, varmesan, or anything else. I prefer to just put it in quotes, so you can say it with some deception in your voice, and maybe even a wink.
Empty the sauce into the spaghetti saucepan. Serve the spaghetti on a plate, next to a pepper half or two. Sprinkle the “parmesan” all over your spaghetti. Enjoy!