Ah, peperonata. You leave me for months and then you come back to me every summer. I miss you when you are gone and love you when you return.
Watch my Chef’s Demo at the Napa Farmers Market where I made Peperonata live.
Some foods invoke strong memories and Peperonata is one of those for me personally. I grew up in the Midwest, but my mother was Italian. We had a big garden and tons of fresh vegetables every summer. I remember how my Dad would take a personal day every year to plant the garden with my Mom while we were still in school. It was kind of their “thing” they always did together. They would order seeds from the Burpee catalog and, before long, we had all kinds of fresh, beautiful vegetables.
One of the dishes that my Mom would make every summer was Peperonata. You must have fresh peppers and tomatoes for this dish. It is so versatile because you can serve it as a main dish on a hot summer night, cold or slightly warm. It’s great with polenta or charcuterie; on it’s own with a piece of bread and a wedge of cheese. Or, you can serve it on the side if you are barbecuing meat or fish. It’s a great dish for a picnic. And, it can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator. Honestly, it’s one of those dishes better the next day.
How I remember Peperonata
I remember having a big pale yellow bowl of Peperonata in the refrigerator. We always found the Peperonata in this particular bowl. I think my parents received it as a gift when they got married. My Mom would always make lots and we would have it as a side dish for other dinners throughout the week. But what I remember is getting a bowl of it for lunch. Every single time I eat Peperonata, I remember being that little kid dunking bread in the juice of the Peperonata with a grin on my face. I’ve never asked my husband, but I bet I look younger when I eat Peperonata even now!
I hope you give it a try. If you are constrained for time, budget or have too many peppers and tomatoes that you know what to do with, this is a great dish with tons of versatility.
4 very large peppers
1 medium size onion
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup basil, torn
1-2 pounds fresh tomatoes (I use 2 pounds because I like lots of tomatoes in this dish, but you can make the peppers more prominent by cutting the tomatoes to 1 pound.)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Peperoncino to taste
Salt and pepper
Slice or dice peppers, onions and garlic and set aside. Boil water for tomatoes. Make a small x in the bottom of each tomato and place all in boiling water for 1 minute. The skins will break and take them out of the boiling water as soon as this occurs. Place tomatoes in colander and douse with cold water to stop any cooking. The tomatoes will be very easy to peel. Core the tomatoes and chop. Set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in pot over medium high heat. Add garlic to cold olive oil and peperoncino of desired amount. When garlic turns to a gold color, add onions and peppers. Let saute for 4-5 minutes. Add tomatoes. Add salt, approximately 1 teaspoon or desired amount. Let entire stew cook for about 30 minutes. Add basil in last 10 minutes. Grind fresh pepper over the top. Note: If you want your Peperonata agrodolce (sweet and sour), add 1/3 cup white wine or 3 tablespoons vinegar in the last 5 minutes of cooking.
Wine Recommendation: The tomatoes are quite acidic, so you need to serve a high acid wine with this dish. I recommend a high quality Pinot Grigio; Sauvignon Blanc; or Gavi for white wines or a Sangiovese (Chianti) or Barbera for red wines.