Besides being famous for pesto, the Ligurian region of Italy is also known for its delectable stuffed vegetables. When we stopped in the charming coastal town of Chiavari for lunch, I couldn’t help but order a platter of these for us to share. I’ve made my own version before, but this recipe from Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy is pretty close to what we ate that day. One of the best things about these is that they are just as delicious at room temperature as they are straight from the oven. Served with a salad and bread and you have a great lunch.
Le Verdure Ripiene
4 cups 1″ cubes day old, dry country bread (crusts removed)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup dried porcini, soaked in 2 cups warm water
1 cup finely chopped scallions
10 large fresh basil leaves, fienly chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Grana Padana or Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
You can use any combination of these-I used peppers and onions
2 medium zucchini
2 red or yellow stuffed peppers
12 large stuffing mushrooms
3 ripe tomatoes
2 large Vidalia onions
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Butter for the baking dishes
1/2 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
Put the bread crumbs in a bowl and pour the milk over them. Toss the cubes and let them sit for a couple of minutes to absorb the liquid. When softened, gather and press the cubes together, squeezing out any excess milk and return the crumbs to the bowl, tearing it to shreds.
Lift the mushrooms from the soaking liquid, squeeze firmly (saving all the liquid) and chop them to fine bits. Scatter the chopped porcini, scallions, basil and grated cheese and salt on top of the bread, toss and mix together with your hands to form a fairly dense stuffing.
For the veggies
Zucchini-trim ends, slice in half lengthwise, scoop out the pulp with melon baller or spoon.
Bell Peppers-slice them into thirds (starting at the stem) and scoop seeds and fibers.
Mushrooms-pull out the stems.
Tomatoes-cut in half crosswise and squeeze out the seeds.
Onions-peel and cut them crosswise into 3/4″ slices.
Put all vegetables (except onions) in a large bowl and toss with olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Brush the onion slices with some oil, keep them whole. Butter one or two baking dishes and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Fill each vegetable piece with a tablespoon of stuffing and place in baking dish. Lay the onion slices flat in the dish and mound a spoonful of stuffing on top of each slice.
When the dishes are filled, but not crowded, sprinkle the vegetable slices with the grated cheese and the remaining teaspoon salt. Pour any of the olive oil remaining in the bowl over the vegetables and pour half of the reserved mushroom soaking liquid into the bottom of each dish. Cover dishes with aluminum foil, making sure it doesn’t touch the the top of the vegetables.
Bake 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake until the stuffing is browned and crisp, about another 30 minutes or so. Serve hot from the oven, warm or at room temperature.