Peppers and Tomato Bake with Cottage Cheese – Fergese 🇦🇱

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What is Fergese?

– fried peppers, tomatoes, onions, and garlic, mixed with cottage cheese and baked, often served as a side dish or main course in Albanian cuisine.

Introduction to Fergese Recipe

Albanian cuisine is not widely known, and because of that, I was very interested in finding some tasty recipes I had never prepared before. The Fergese dish instantly caught my eye.
I love peppers, tomatoes, and cottage cheese so the combination of vegetables baked together with cottage cheese made it very appealing to me, especially as I had never cooked with cottage cheese before. I had only ever used it as a simple spread on bread for my breakfast or snack!

Fergese is one of Albania’s national dishes, with its name derived from the verb “fërgoj,” meaning -to fry. Recipes for Fergese vary across different villages, towns, and regions, each having its own version passed down through generations. There are a few variations to note:

Summer Fergese, a simple version, typically includes tomatoes and peppers with garlic (sometimes with onions), cooked in olive oil without cheese, resembling something between a thick stew and chutney.

The traditional Fergese features Albanian cheese curd, gjize, similar in texture to sour ricotta or saltier cottage cheese. Fried peppers and tomatoes are mixed with cheese. For a more traditional approach, the dish is often placed in small clay pots and baked in the oven for 10 minutes to achieve a distinctive flavour and presentation.

There is a winter, a heartier version with the addition of meat, particularly liver, but also sometimes with beef or lamb. This variation is often enjoyed as a main meal during the colder months.

There are recipes without onions, some incorporate a butter and flour roux.
In northern Albania, specifically in the Shkodër city region, eggs are added to Fergese and fried together for a hearty breakfast or lunch.

Fergese Ingredients

  • peppers
  • tomatoes
  • onion
  • garlic
  • olive oil
  • cottage cheese
  • flour
  • butter
  • paprika
  • hot paprika
  • oregano
  • parsley

Use sweet red peppers, such as bell peppers or red Romano peppers. These types of peppers have a rich, sweet flavour.
Buy ripe, juicy tomatoes such as Roma or vine-ripened tomatoes. If fresh tomatoes are not available, you can use canned chopped tomatoes.
Albanian Fergese typically uses “gjizë,” a salty cheese similar to cottage cheese, but saltier. If unavailable, cottage cheese makes a suitable substitute.
If hot paprika is unavailable, it can be substituted with chilli powder, cayenne pepper, or chilli flakes. Feel free to add fresh chilli if you enjoy extra spice.
Traditionally, Fergese includes oregano and parsley, but also basil in some versions. Add your favourite herbs.

How to make Fergese (peppers and tomato bake)?

Prepare Peppers and Tomatoes: Start by washing the peppers thoroughly. Then, cut off the stalks and remove the seeds from all peppers. Cut off the stalks and remove the seeds. Leave 1 or 2 peppers whole, cutting them in half lengthwise. Chop the rest into small pieces. If using fresh tomatoes, cut them into small pieces.

Fry the Peppers: Heat olive oil in a deep pan over medium heat. First fry peppers until they become fragrant, about 5 minutes. In the last minute add chopped garlic. Traditionally it is cut in half, they use lots of garlic. Fry for another minute or two until fragrant. Remove the longer pepper pieces and set them aside for later use.

Cook Onions and Tomatoes: Add chopped onions and tomatoes to the same pan. Stir in paprika, sugar, and oregano. Continue frying until the onions are translucent and the tomatoes start breaking down. For about 10 minutes. Cook until the liquid reduces slightly. If it becomes too dry, add some water about 100 ml; if liquidy, cook longer to evaporate excess liquid.

Frying peppers and tomatoes for Turkish Fergese Dish
Perfectly cooked red peppers and tomatoes to make Turkish Fergese

Prepare the Roux and Cheese mixture: In a small pan or saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add flour and cook for about 1 minute until it turns slightly yellow, be careful not to burn it. Remove from heat and stir in cottage cheese until well combined. Pour this mixture into the pan with peppers and tomatoes, stirring well. Simmer for 1-2 minutes until the sauce thickens.

Preparing cottage chese with roux.
Mixing cottage cheese with fried peppers and tomatoes.

Bake in the Oven: Preheat the oven and grease a baking dish with olive oil. Pour the prepared sauce into the dish. Top it with the fried whole peppers that were set aside. (I forgot to do this and ended up adding them after the dish had already been baked.) Bake in the oven (grill) until heated through and a golden crust forms, about 7 minutes.

Peppers, tomatoes and cottage chese mix ready to finish in the oven.
Freshly baked Fergese -peppers and tomato bake.

Now you have it, delicious peppers and tomato bake with cottage cheese. Just add some fresh parsley before serving.

Perfectly baked Albanian Fergese - peppers and tomato bake with cottage cheese.

How to serve Fergese (peppers and tomato bake)?

The summer version (peppers and tomato bake without cheese) can be enjoyed on a slice of your favourite bread, or traditionally served by spreading cottage cheese on a plate and top it with Fergese. You can then dip or scoop it with bread.

Traditional Fergese with cheese is an ideal side dish to accompany meat or can be served as a main meal with bread. It is also perfect as a sauce for pasta. This dish makes a great vegetarian snack that is quick and easy to make.

I served Fergese with salad and another Albanian national dish, Tave Kosi, as pictured. The recipe is coming soon.

Albanian peppers and tomatoes bake ( fergese) served with meat.
Albanian Fergese served with Tave Kosi Albanian dish.

Recipe Card

Peppers and Tomatoes Bake with Cottage Cheese – Albanian Fergese

Fergese is a classic Albanian dish featuring fried peppers, tomatoes, onions, and garlic, mixed with cottage cheese and baked. It's enjoyed as a side dish or a hearty main course.
Servings 3
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 peppers
  • 450 g chopped tomatoes
  • 4 tbsp cottage cheese
  • 1 onion
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp paprika powder
  • 1/2 tsp hot paprika - or chilli ( cayenne) powder
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp flour
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 teaspoons parsley
  • 100 ml olive oil

Instructions

  • Wash and deseed peppers. Halve 1-2 lengthwise, chop the rest. Dice fresh tomatoes if using.
  • Sauté peppers in olive oil until fragrant. Set aside longer pieces.
  • Add tomatoes and onions to the pan, fry for 5 minutes, until soft. In the last minute add garlic. Then stir in paprika, sugar, and oregano. Cook until thickened, adjusting with water if needed.
  • Melt butter, and stir in flour until golden. Remove from heat, mix in cottage cheese and combine with peppers and tomatoes, simmer for 2 minutes to thicken.
  • Preheat oven ( grill) and grease dish. Pour in mixture, top with reserved fried peppers. Bake until golden, about 7 minutes.

Notes

Total calories for the whole dish are approximately 1235. Caloric values are approximate and may vary depending on the specific ingredients used. This recipe serves 3 as a side dish, each serving containing approximately 415 calories.
Calories: 415kcal
Course: Condiments, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Albanian
Diet: Low Fat, Vegetarian

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