Five years ago, I posted this picture on Facebook of peppers I had just harvested from my backyard garden.
Within minutes of posting it, I received a message from a Sicilian friend living in Germany, Francesco Strazzanti, with the following message, “Peperonata!”
Francesco is a fantastic cook; so when he talks, I listen. I had never heard of peperonata. When I Googled it and learned it was a stew made with sweet bell peppers (“peperoni” in Italian), onions, and tomatoes, I realized I knew exactly what peperonata was — I just never knew the dish had a name.
There are many ways to make this dish, just like there are many ways to make
sausage with peppers and onions,
or chicken cacciatore,
The core ingredients are all pretty much the same, a variation of vegetables typically grown in a summer Italian kitchen garden: tomatoes, peppers, onions, zucchini, eggplant, garlic, basil, and parsley. These are MY VEGGIES! I garden just to watch these beauties grow and then to have a quiet kitchen in which to prepare them in delicious and creative ways. The bonus is the connection I feel to my mother and grandmothers when I make their recipes.
Peperonata is the kind of dish you could make a big batch of every week and have in the fridge to use as you plan meals.
You could serve it over pasta for dinner or as a side dish alongside grilled sausages or chicken.
You could serve it over a slice of crusty bread with melted mozzarella or goat cheese for lunch.
Or, you could serve it scrambled with eggs for breakfast. This last way was one of my favorite foods to eat when I was a teenager. My grandmother in Baltimore used to make it for me all the time. She scrambled the eggs in olive oil and stirred in the peperonata at the end. Yum.
Yield: 8 cups
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, about 3 cups cleaned and sliced
3 pounds bell pepper, about 10 medium-sized, or 10 cups cleaned and sliced.
1 level tablespoon chopped garlic, about 4 or 5 cloves
2 pounds juicy, ripe, tasty, tomatoes, or 4 cups cleaned and rough-chopped.
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or the leaves from about 6-8 sprigs
¼ cup chopped fresh basil, or the leaves from two stems
1 heaping tablespoon chopped mint, or the leaves of one long stem
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or about ½ lemon squeezed
1 heaping tablespoon plain Greek yogurt (optional – swirl in before serving if desired)
Mise en Place:
To prep the peppers: cut in half and scoop out the stem, seeds and white pith. Chop into slices or chunks. I leave the skin on. Note: red sweet peppers make for a pretty sauce if you have a choice when buying the peppers.
To prep the tomatoes: cut in half horizontally, use your index finger to scoop out the seeds. Remove the stem and core and cut into two-inch chunks. I leave the skin on because the heirloom tomatoes I use (called Cherokee Purples) are thin-skinned.
To prep the onions: remove the papery skin and white core at the base. Slice into slivers.
Warm olive oil in a 6-quart pan. Add onions and sauté for 5 minutes on medium heat until translucent.
Add peppers and garlic and sauté for 10 minutes, covered, on medium-low heat until soft. Stir about every 5 minutes. Do not brown peppers.
Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper, cover and sauté for 5 minutes on medium-low, stirring occasionally. Stir in herbs. Cover, cut off heat and let sit for about an hour to finish cooking. Stir in the honey, lemon, and yogurt. Add more salt to taste. I like to add ¼ teaspoon at a time until that moment when the salt brings out the best in all the flavors. Francesco is the one who encouraged me to add the lemon, honey, mint, and yogurt. He was spot on. They boosted the depth of flavor wonderfully.
P.S. It gets better every day!
How about Italian cookies for dessert?
Always check the website for the most current version of a recipe. Thanks!
© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.