Sunflower seeds are the surprise ingredient in these Italian-Style Stuffed Peppers. Sunflower seeds may not be the first ingredient that comes to mind in classic Italian cooking, but the sunflower has a long tradition in Italian gardens and sunflower oil is used nearly as widely as olive oil.
- 2 red bell peppers (halved lengthwise and seeded)
- ½ pound fresh breadcrumbs (from a loaf of rustic Italian bread)
- 2 tablespoon sunflower oil (or other mild tasting oil, divided)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- 1 small onion (chopped)
- 10–12 anchovies fillets in oil (drained and chopped)
- 2 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
- 20 oil-cured black olives (halved and pitted)
- kosher salt (if needed)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (quartered and separated)
- 8 grape or cherry tomatoes
- 4 teaspoon shelled sunflower seeds
- 4 teaspoon minced Italian parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place peppers cut side up in baking dish just large enough to hold them side by side; set aside.
Put breadcrumbs, 1‑tablespoon sunflower oil, dill, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes in a medium bowl; toss to combine and set aside.
Heat remaining 1‑tablespoon sunflower oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until soft and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add anchovies and garlic and cook, stirring often, until anchovies break down and garlic is soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in olives and breadcrumb mixture; remove pan from heat and allow to cool at least 10 minutes before proceeding.
Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt if necessary. Divide the stuffing evenly between pepper halves, stuffing the mixture in tightly. Push 1 piece butter and two cherry or grape tomatoes into the stuffing deep enough that they won’t melt or roll off during baking. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds and chopped parsley; cover the baking dish with foil.
Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until peppers are tender. Uncover the peppers and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until they just begin to color. Serve warm or at room temperature.