8 bell peppers tops cut off and seeds and membranes removed
1 pound mild or spicy ground Italian sausage for alternative protein options, see notes
3 cup Spanish style rice, or white rice*
1 1/2 cups water
1 15-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
cilantro or green onions for topping optional
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a large baking dish and arrange bell peppers standing up. (If they want to tip over you can always cut off the very bottom 1/8 of an inch or so to flatten them out and help them stand!) Transfer to preheated oven and allow to cook for 10-15 minutes until tender. (Move ahead with Step 2 while peppers are baking!)
In a large pan over medium-high heat, cook sausage for 5-6 minutes, breaking apart with a spatula or spoon as it cooks, until well browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer sausage to a platter, cover to keep warm, and set aside.
Add rice, water, and tomatoes to the pan, give it a good stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce to LOW, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir sausage and 1/2 cup of the cheese into the pan. Spoon mixture into the baked peppers and top with remaining cheese.
Bake for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Top with green onions or cilantro if desired and serve.