Have you noticed the brightly colored bell peppers in the market lately? They’re glorious. Here’s a quick and easy recipe for Italian peperonata, or fried peppers, with onions, fresh plum tomatoes, garlic, and basil. This is one of those “I almost ate the whole batch” dishes, only reluctantly shared with my parents who agreed they were terrific. Peperonata recipes come in many versions; some get cooked a good long time, some get cooked with potatoes, or without tomatoes. This dish is certainly open-for-improvisation. Rather than cooking the peppers until they were stew-like, we opted for a light sauté so there is still some crunch in the vegetables. A perfect side dish for chicken or fish, great on bread, and great on its own too.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 red bell peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
- 2 yellow bell peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
- 2 orange or green bell peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
- 1 large onion, sliced into half-moons
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 4-5 Roma or other plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, leaves torn roughly
- Lemon juice
1 Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. When the oil is almost smoking, add the onions. Sprinkle with a little salt and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until the onions just begin to color.
2 Add the peppers and stir well to combine with the onions. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring often. The peppers should be al dente—cooked, but with a little crunch left in them.
3 Add the garlic, and sauté another 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle a little more salt over everything and add the sugar and dried oregano. Cook 1 minute. Add the diced tomatoes, and cook just one minute further.
4 Turn off the heat and mix in the torn basil. Grind some black pepper over everything. Right before serving squeeze a little lemon juice over the dish.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6.