Couscous (or Rice) Stuffed Peppers, and about smart recycling #Againstwaste

‘Aren’t you going to peel that?’
‘Absolutely not. Most of the fiber is in the skin.’
Most of the scenes in my kitchen between me and my mom start in a similar scenario, and end with my mom’s befuddled looks.
I grew up in a family that, albeit not wasteful in the slightest, peeled every single thing that had an outside layer that could be removed. The weird thing is, when I was younger and was seen by my grandpa peeling an apple, leaving thick chunks of flesh attached to the peel falling on the plate, he said: ‘what in the world are you doing? You could feed another person with what you’re discarding.’

My grandpa knew what he was talking about. After all, he was not going to see any children grow up eating bread and onions year-round ever again, like kids his age did.
‘You kids are far too spoiled,’ he grunted. ‘You clearly do not know what hunger is… thank God.’
I have never peeled a piece of fruit again since.

Still, the real revolution came years later, when I got back home after living by myself in the city, and the very thought of discarding part of the food I had so difficultly earned in merciless NYC made my skin crawl.
‘What in the world are you doing?’ my mom said, as I dumped chunks of unpeeled Kabocha squash into a pot.
She rolled her eyes.

It is not infrequent to hear news on the tv about reports on how much food is wasted every year. And, if there is one thing that drives me absolutely crazy, that is waste – especially if it is food. We are in a time and place in which we just cannot afford waste. I would even eat meat if I knew that was going to end up in the trash. And it pains me to see how many people still let their food be tossed without blinking an eye. Still today, some people in Italian restaurants are too intimidated to ask for a ‘doggy bag’ to take home, because, apparently, it’s not chic.
I think these people are mental.

Couscous (or Rice) Salad Stuffed Peppers | Hortus Natural Cooking

As I mentioned in this post, I am about to start renovating my little home where I’ll finally have my own kitchen. Following the Peel Philosophy of ‘Waste Not, Want Not’, most of my furniture, will be made out of reclaimed wood, doors and wine barrels, old furniture, and secondhand stuff. We had so much junk lying around that I felt could be transformed into treasure that neither me nor Enrico had the slightest intention of buying something new. A great artist called Giuseppe, who owns a small carpentry lab in Cattolica, will take care of renovating most of the old wood I presented him. We are going to turn an old window frame into a bathroom cabinet, an old elderwood wine barrel into a table, some old wood planks into beams for the ceiling, and an old carpenter table into a work table.
We also found this old piece of furniture that was once part of a Pastificio, a pasta shop. All the drawers were used to keep the pasta. It’s going to look amazing!

Couscous (or Rice) Salad Stuffed Peppers | Hortus Natural Cooking

This stunning piece of furniture used to be part of a pasta shop. All those drawers used to hold pasta of various shapes. This is gonna be part of my kitchen!

Couscous (or Rice) Salad Stuffed Peppers | Hortus Natural Cooking

This year’s long peppers from the garden, and last year’s Ricotta stuffed peppers (link below)

Couscous (or Rice) Salad Stuffed Peppers | Hortus Natural Cooking

And today’s recipe is all about recycling as well. Even though the rice for these stuffed peppers was freshly made, they could technically be stuffed with any leftover grain salad/risotto/farrotto/legumes or even pasta you have lying around. Think of the vegetable containers as little treasure chests to hold your precious leftovers. For stuffing, also try this Sicilian Couscous Salad, this Spring Farro Salad, or this other Summer Rice Salad. Or even this Barley-Chickpea Onion Stuffing. All are vegan options. You could even just cook the peppers (or tomatoes, same procedure) and add the cold salad and have them cold.
MAKE IT GLUTEN-FREE: just use rice, millet or quinoa instead of couscous!

Because learning to find a treasure where everybody sees trash is a real form of fast-forward evolution. And, you’ll see that, if you learn to do that, you’ll start to see treasures everywhere you look.

Couscous (or Rice) Salad Stuffed Peppers | Hortus Natural Cooking

Couscous-Stuffed Peppers, Mediterranean Style, and about smart recycling #Againstwaste
  • 8 peppers (round, bell, or horn)
  • 170g whole wheat couscous + 200 ml water
  • 1 can cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained (220g)
  • 1 lb seasonal veggies (I used eggplants and zucchini - optional but I like bulking up with veggies)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 15 basil leaves
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for dressing and oiling the tray
  • A handful pine nuts or almonds
  • A handful rehydrated sultanas (optional)
  • Spices you like: either a pinch of saffron, or a mixture of: ½ tsp paprika, ½ tsp turmeric, ¼ tsp coriander powder
  • 2 tbsp toasted sunflower or sesame seeds
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. Cook the couscous according to package instructions. Fluff, and add spices.
  2. Thinly slice the onion and cut the vegetables into small cubes, and quarter the cherry tomatoes. Sauté everything in a pan with a tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste until soft, about 15 mins. Add some water if the veggies stick.
  3. Thinly mince the basil, and combine the couscous, chickpeas, basil, veggies, pine nuts and raisins in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and a little extra olive oil.
  4. At this point, you have a delicious salad that is also great enjoyed as is!
  5. But we're not stopping here, so here's how to proceed:
  6. Preheat the oven to 390 F˚.
  7. Cut the top of the round peppers and get rid of seeds. If using bell peppers, cut them in half instead. Add baking paper to a tray and lightly oil it, then add the peppers and bake for about 15 minutes. Take them out and stuff each with the couscous. Cover with the 'pepper cap', and lightly oil the top of the peppers as well. Finish cooking for about 20-30 more minutes, until soft. Add some seeds to the top, under the cap, and serve. They are awesome both warm and cold!
  8. You can use fist-sized ripe tomatoes for this recipe as well, following the same procedure.
  9. MAKE IT GLUTEN-FREE: just use millet, rice or quinoa instead of couscous!



Ricotta Stuffed Peppers
Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini
Barley & Chickpea Stuffed Onions 
Crumb-Stuffed Artichokes ‘Alla Romagnola’


  1. Good luck with the renovation of the house, it’s always the most exciting part. I am really looking forward to see the kitchen!
    Lovely recipe, as usual!

  2. My mamma and papà used everything although mamma did peel her veggies BUT all of the peels were placed in the garden. My papà would dig a hole and bury it. They had the best vegetables and grapes. One thing that I do differently than my mamma is I don’t cook my veggies quite as long as what she did. They liked their veggies almost mushy whereas I like my veggies to have a little more structure. I believe you’re doing the right thing with your furniture. Old furniture has personality and a story to tell. I love the cabinet that you’re putting in your kitchen. Thank you for sharing the recipe — I love filled veggies. Buona giornata!

    • I can sooo relate to this comment! :D we also have a compost bin and all the peels and trims that end up there eventually are either used to feed hens or for the garden. There is ZERO waste at our home :) Actually, I belong to the category of Italians who overcook their veggies…eheh. I do include lots of raw veggies too though, so I can balance things out :)

  3. Valentina, as usual your gorgeous photos and your words are just delightful! I absolutely love all the talk going on about wasting less/using ingredients to their fullest. xx

  4. Oh those peppers look mouthwatering good! I think it is very cool what you are doing, I totally agree with you! I was just thinking the other day how we have been inundated with plastic everything from China. Everyday, I am picking up plastic toys etc. on the beach. We live in such a throwaway society, it’s sad! And that pasta furniture piece, the coolest!!!

    • You live close to the beach?! I totally understand…I live close to the beach as well and the amount of stuff the sea discharges on the shore is unbelievable :/

  5. Pingback: Couscous (or Rice) Stuffed Peppers, and about smart recycling #Againstwaste - Be Empowered

    • Ahah, that’s funny! At least, not peeling potatoes and carrots is more common in the UK/US…but in Italy it’s totally unheard of. :D

  6. D’accordissimo con il no waste, soprattutto in fatto di cibo: lo spreco non è un lusso, ma un peccato!
    E… fantastico il mobile porta pasta! Sono curiosa di vedere i progressi del tuo nuovo progetto di vita! In bocca al lupo!

  7. When I peel onions, I save the peel. When I cut the ends off celery and carrots I save those too. They all go into a zippy bag in the freezer and I pull them out and make soup stock with them.

  8. Hi Valentina!

    A not wasteful remodeling. That sounds like a great idea! Knowing your taste is sublime, I am sure the home will look very nice and cozy. I hope to be able to visit you one day!
    This recipe looks delightful. I always love stuffing vegetables haha! I think I’ll make them soon with quinoa.


  9. That’s a beautiful philosophy. We try to minimise waste at home by freezing veggies for stock or feeding them to the guinea pigs. Most leftovers can be re purposed into another delicious meal too! I like your idea of using pre loved funiture for your home. Good luck with that!

  10. Hey! Recycling parings and stems is called composting. I ate my grandmother’s apple peels. Part of our fun was watching her peel an apple without a single break. Being as frugal as she was often left me with peels so thin you could almost see light from the other side. Now that I’m an adult, waste-not-want-not is not on my radar. Nothing is ever wasted as long as we grow vegetables and flowers. Even those who toss compostables do the Earth some good since it helps break down trash in dumps.

    Finding a way to recycle things like plastic . . . Wait. What if we refused to buy foods packed in any containers that do not break down? Hmm.

    Wait. You actually eat those pepper stems? I wouldn’t. I’d sure compost them though. :)

    • Ahah, love this comment so much! :D Thank you. I do not eat the stems, but I do eat the flesh around them…:P we have a veggie garden so compost is useful -as I said, nothing in my house is really wasted!
      Great point about plastic. I DO refuse to buy foods that come in containers that do not break down. I have a post about this planned :)

  11. sounds great with the renovation!! also love to use old wood and the thought behind it, not to waste things is really important! totally agree with you!! :)
    And these stuffed peppers look amazing! wish we could have them for lunch now <3

    • Thanks girls!! But your taste in terms of styling and furnishing is really second to none, the latest photo you posted of the outdoors + your latest cake was incredible :) thanks for being an inspiration!

  12. Love this, Valentina! It is so hard to stay aware of what you are putting in your body and also what you put back in to the world – but this recipe is perfect. We grew up composting and recycling (a tad) but we were always big on “left overs” nights – we never wasted much food. However, now as an adult with my own home, I have noticed even more than can be done. Thank you for the great reminder, and for inspiring more awareness! xx

    • Thank you for the comment, Meg! Your amazing blog is a great discovery! :D I have been to Cape Cod several times, and I’d be happy to see more pics. I miss it a bit! I also pinned some recipes, so thank YOU! xxx

  13. Love the sentiments about food waste, I fully agree and we can’t do enough to raise awareness about how much is being wasted… good luck with your renovations, the drawers look beautiful!

  14. What a wonderful ideas to repurpose all those wood/furniture!!! I sure hope you show all of us your ‘new’ kitchen once it’s done; I agree that it’s going to look amazing. As for the food, I do love to make anything out of leftover as well, and I hardly peel anything unless absolutely needed. :) As always, love your styling & your photos, Valentina :)

  15. It looks so delicious! I admire your waste-not-want-not attitude and your dedication to do reduce all the waste! I try to use all the leftovers so there are none and doing so to minimize your footprint here. Wish you all the best and keep up the good work!