Peperonata, that combination of peppers and onions often with just a tang of acidity, once typical of Southern Italian cuisine has become a staple in many Italian homes. Peperonata has been described as a stew of red peppers of sorts, but I think of it more as a condiment. An uncomplicated dish based on red peppers, Pepperonata can be served with roasted meats or chicken, a topping for bruschetta, alongside a frittata, or as a sauce for pasta.
As is typical with regional Italian food, each family has their own variation on this dish. Most include onions, some add garlic and tomatoes, and a few capers all bound together with olive oil.
My favorite variation of Peperonata comes from the A16 Food & Wine cookbook and is served with fresh milky ricotta as a topping for bruschetta. The recipe uses gypsy peppers rather than the traditional red bell peppers, red onion and fennel. Roasting the peppers brings out a depth of flavor that sautéing simply cannot provide.
Dried chili flakes and a dash of homemade red wine vinegar (grazie Mio Marito) heighten the flavors and bring me back to my Calabrian roots.
Peperonata can be made in batches, topped with olive oil and stored in a tightly sealed glass jar in the back of your refrigerator ready to use as you like. Try it gently warmed in a skillet to which an egg or two have been added for a late night dinner.
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- 2½ pounds of Gypsy peppers
- ½ cup of Extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for roasting the peppers
- 2 Tbs. capers, preferably salt packed rinsed and patted dry
- 1 Tbs. tomato paste
- ½ large red onion, diced
- ½ fennel bulb, diced
- ½ tsp. red pepper flakes or to taste
- 2 Tbs. good quality red wine vinegar
- Extra virgin olive oil to top the finished Peperonata
- Wash and dry the peppers. Preheat the oven to 400º.
- Rub the clean peppers with some of the olive oil and arrange them on a heavy duty baking sheet. Roast the peppers in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, turning them once midway. Refrain from opening the oven, with the exception of that one time as this reduces the temperature thereby affecting the roasting. The peppers should be black and blistered, with the skin pulling away from the flesh of the peppers. Remove from the tray from the oven and using tongs place the peppers in a bowl, covering them tightly with either a plate or plastic wrap. Allow the peppers to steam, which will help when removing the skin.
- Once the peppers are cool enough to handle uncover the bowl and peel off the blackened skins with your fingers. Discard the stems and seeds, tear the peppers into strips no wider than ½ inch each. Set aside.
- In a large skillet heat the ½ cup of olive oil over medium heat. Add the capers to the hot oil and fry for about 1 minute or until the capers become crisp and bloom. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for about 2 minutes or until the tomato paste darkens in color. Stir in the onion, fennel, and chilly flakes and ½ tsp. of salt; cook for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally. The fennel and onion should be tender.
- Add the vinegar to deglaze the pan, scraping any brown bits from the bottom - stir in the peppers. Cook for a few minutes, taste for seasoning; add more salt and vinegar if you feel it is necessary. Cool the Peperonata completely. Afterwards it may be stored tightly in a glass jar topped with a bit of olive oil for 2 weeks Serve either warm or at room temperature.