Gemista (stuffed peppers or tomatoes) is a traditional Greek dish made with bell peppers, tomatoes, or other vegetables stuffed with a delicious mixture of ground beef, rice, fresh herbs, pine nuts, and seasonings. The stuffed peppers and tomatoes are then baked uncovered in a single layer in the oven with tomato sauce and potatoes.
These delicious stuffed peppers and tomatoes bake in the oven for over an hour so that the peppers and tomatoes become sweet as they cook for a longer period of time. I also add a tomato sauce to the base of the pan that is made with crushed Italian peeled plum tomatoes, olive oil and a bit of sugar. You can also add cut potatoes to cook with the gemista.
I often recommend using red bell peppers, yellow peppers, or orange peppers instead of green peppers. The reason is that green peppers are more bitter and not as sweet as the other three types of peppers. If you love green peppers or only have those in your fridge, then you can definitely make this recipe with green peppers.
Gemista does require some prep work, but it’s a delicious and easy meal that is full of nutrients. It’s a healthy meal that’s great for meal prep, busy weeknights, and family dinners! This recipe makes a large batch of about 10-12 stuffed peppers and tomatoes. Because it makes a larger quantity, you may have some stuffed peppers left over.
I usually make gemista using a mixture of peppers and tomatoes. If you haven’t tried making stuffed tomatoes yet, I think you’ll want to try it! Plus, when tomatoes are in season, they are so sweet, delicate and delicious.
Tomatoes are usually smaller than peppers, so you may have a little filling left over if you’re using only tomatoes. However, if your plan is to make these ahead of time and then freeze them, you will likely get better results with peppers instead of tomatoes.
This blog post will outline how to freeze cooked stuffed peppers, how to prep and freeze stuffed peppers ahead of time and how to also reheat stuffed peppers. They taste just as great reheated in the oven!
SHOULD I FREEZE STUFFED PEPPERS?
This will depend on how soon your plan to enjoy the leftovers. If it’s within a day or two, then you can store any leftover gemista in the fridge in an airtight container for up to three days.
You can also wash and prepare the tomatoes, bell peppers, and potatoes ahead of time. If you’re peeling and slicing the potatoes ahead of time, make sure to soak them in cold water so they don’t turn brown. Then you can assemble the gemista once you’re ready to bake them.
PREPPING AND FREEZING THE INGREDIENTS AHEAD OF TIME
If you’re wanting to save time and make some of this recipe ahead of time, then you can prep the peppers and make the filling ahead of time. I think this is the best option because then you can assemble the gemista quickly and just pop them in the oven when you’re ready to bake them. First, prepare the stuffed pepper filling, except for the step where you add in the rice. This is because we want the rice to expand as it bakes inside the stuffed pepper.
Once the stuffing mixture is cooked and has come to room temperature, add in the rice, give it a quick stir and then put it in the freezer. I always thoroughly cook the meat in the stuffing mixture before stuffing the peppers or storing the mixture separately in the fridge or freezer. This just eases my mind that everything is cooked.
Allow the mixture to cool completely, and then scoop the mixture into a large enough freezer-safe container. Write the current date on the container and then place it in the freezer.
While the mixture is cooking, wash the peppers thoroughly, cut off the tops (don’t throw them away because we’ll use the tops for the recipe), discard the seeds and then wrap the peppers with their tops in plastic wrap and then into a freezer bag. It may be easier to freeze the peppers individually so that you know which top goes with what pepper. I like to write the current date on the freezer bag so that I know the date I put them in the freezer.
FREEZING LEFTOVER COOKED PEPPERS
Allow the cooked gemista to cool completely once removed from the often. They will be soft, so carefully use a large spoon or spatula to transfer them from the baking dish to another plate. Then wrap each pepper individually and tightly with plastic wrap or saran wrap. Place the wrapped peppers right side up in a freezer-safe container so that none of the food is exposed. These steps will help prevent freezer burn.
If stored correctly and for best results, cooked gemista will last in the freezer for up to three months. You can also store cooked gemista in the fridge in an airtight container for up to three days. They are just as delicious cold or reheated the next day!
HOW TO DEFROST FROZEN STUFFED PEPPERS
You can either bake the stuffed peppers from frozen or allow them to thaw out overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. If you’ve stored the stuffing mixture separately, then you will need to allow time for it to thaw before stuffing the peppers. This is under the assumption that the meat mixture is fully cooked.
HOW TO REHEAT STUFFED PEPPERS
The best way to reheat stuffed peppers is in the oven. The microwave will make them too soggy. You can take out the stuffed peppers from the freezer and allow them to thaw out overnight in the refrigerator. Place the thawed-out peppers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 25-30 minutes or until warmed through.
You can also place the frozen stuffed peppers in a baking dish or casserole dish and place them in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for about 30-45 minutes or until warmed through. The peppers will release a little bit of juice as they cook, but it’s good to keep an eye on them so that they don’t burn.
Since the meat mixture is already cooked, we don’t have to worry about making sure the meat is properly cooked when reheating. I find it helpful to add a little bit of liquid to the base of the pan.
You can add a few canned or fresh crushed tomatoes or olive oil to the bottom of the baking dish so that there is a little bit of moisture there and the bottom doesn’t burn. I like using a small can of peeled Italian plum tomatoes. You can add potatoes at this point, too, if you’d like.
You may need to add about 10-15 additional minutes to the cooking time if adding the gemista cold from the freezer or fridge.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH STUFFED PEPPERS (GEMISTA)
Looking for some Greek food ideas to serve with gemista? I’ve listed out a few of my favourite pairings below.
Roasted Greek Potatoes
The delicious flavours of gemista go so well with Greek potatoes. You can add these seasoned cut potatoes to the baking dish (but don’t include the water) because the potatoes will cook in the crushed tomato sauce. Or you can prepare these Greek potatoes separately and serve them as a side dish!
Greek Dandelion Greens
If you’re looking to make gemista even healthier, then you can serve them with dandelion greens. This recipe is made on the stove, so if your oven is full, then this is a great healthy and vegetarian side dish option.
Spicy Feta Cheese Dip (Tirokafteri)
I love adding crumbled feta cheese to gemista after it’s cooked, so I thought tirokafteri could be a great addition. It’s made primarily with whipped feta cheese, spicy peppers, and red pepper flakes. It’s a great spread to add a little bit of spice to gemista.
Can You Freeze Stuffed Peppers? Here’s How!
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