Queenie Cooks:  Stuffed Pepper Soup

Though I never used to be a big fan of soups, over the years I have come to love them, and this easy, delicious, Stuffed Pepper  Soup is my absolute favorite.

The first time I tried Stuffed Pepper Soup was in a small, local restaurant, and I was instantly hooked.  It was so popular that everyone in town knew that if you didn’t get your order early on Pepper Soup days, you’d be out of luck!   Fortunately, the chef was kind enough to share his recipe with me, and after a few tweaks (of course!)  I came up with a thick, hearty concoction that’s so delicious that even people who swear they “don’t like green peppers” love it. 

It really is amazing how just a few little adjustments to tailor a recipe to your own taste can do, and I suppose that’s one of my favorite things about making soup.  Unlike baked dishes that can be ruined by mis-measuring ingredients, you can make fantastic soups out of almost anything edible, and “a little more of this” or “a little less of that” can turn a good pot of soup into something that you and your family and friends will just love! 

The original recipe for Stuffed Pepper Soup began with a homemade spaghetti sauce as a base.  I had neither the time nor the inclination to spend the time to make homemade spaghetti sauce only to turn around and use it as an ingredient in a pot of soup. So I substituted canned, diced tomatoes, thinned it with some chicken broth, (I tried beef broth, but it was too strong in this, for me) and it made a very good soup. My cousin is my go-to guinea pig for my cooking experiments, and since she prefers “soupier soup” I added enough more broth to make it so.  She loved it. And it WAS good. But it wasn’t… great.  And I like to putter with recipes until they’re “Mama-worthy.”  So I played with some Italian herbs and spices, and it turned out  to be pretty great  – for a “soupy-soup.” Friends and family raved.  And for months that’s how I made it. 

Then one day someone very special to me mentioned that since he had been on chemo nothing tasted very good.  Well, I decided to fix that.  So I went back and looked at my notes on the original recipe and saw that in an interesting footnote at the very bottom of the recipe the chef had added, “Some days, when I don’t have time to make homemade tomato sauce, I use canned spaghetti sauce, and no one has ever noticed the difference.”

I rushed down to the store, grabbed some green peppers, onions, ground beef, and a jar of bottled Spaghetti sauce and cooked it all up.  It. Was. Fantastic!  I know, I know – it’s not “all original.”  But it’s certainly all delicious!

And here’s where the fun starts.  I began experimenting again.  Here are a few things that I learned.  I decided that it should be delicious with an added package of corn I had picked and frozen that summer – and it was!  I wasn’t crazy about the starchiness of the long grain white rice in the original, plus I didn’t particularly like waiting for it to cook – so I substituted packets of a partially pre-cooked brown rice. As for the added (canned!) sauce, I missed the pretty little chunks of tomato in the original. But when I added a can of diced tomatoes, that was the finishing touch for me.  Now it was delicious, and beautiful as well! 

So for this recipe in particular, I urge you to experiment a little.  If you like meatier soups, double the ground beef, or if you’re not a big meat-eater, halve it.  I’m sure you could even substitute chicken for the beef if you wanted, though that would change it rather a lot.

If you like spicy food, you could throw in a little cayenne.  If you want a little more pizzazz when you serve it, top it with a dollop of sour cream or some grated cheddar – or both!  I’ve even made it once – when I had no green pepper on hand – with some banana peppers a friend had given me from her garden and it was wonderful!  And do play with the amount of broth you use until it’s just like YOU like it.  Just make sure you use enough for the rice to thoroughly absorb it until it’s tender. After that, it’s all up to how “soupy” YOU like it

Again, you can make it right by the recipe and it will be great. And if you love it as-is, go for it!  Just don’t be afraid to play with it a little bit if you’re feeling inspired.  It really is fun to make anything you cook more to your own taste, and with this soup, it’s safe to try! So be brave!  Who knows?  With little bit of creativity, you might “invent” your own new very favorite soup!  Enjoy! 

Queenie’s Stuffed Green Pepper Soup

1 pound very lean hamburger

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 very large, sweet onion, coarsely chopped

2* boxes (32 ounces each) chicken broth

2 large green peppers cut in 1/2  inch pieces

1 small jar Ragu Homestyle spaghetti sauce

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice (optional)

1 large garlic clove, minced (I often delete this)

1 Cup uncooked white rice (or 1 packet Success Brown rice)

salt and pepper to taste

OPTIONAL: a cup of fresh-cut corn.

Brown hamburger in large soup pot, then drain fat.  Add onion and broth and cook until onion is translucent.  Add green pepper and tomato sauce and bring back to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes, until pepper is just tender.  Stir in rice, corn, and the second box of chicken broth.  Cook about 15 minutes until rice is tender.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

NOTE:  I generally double this, and sometimes serve it with a dollop of sour cream or a sprinkling of cheddar cheese on top. Don’t be afraid to add additional broth for a thinner soup, if preferred.