Italian bell pepper, onion, tomato sauté, with garlic, ground oregano, and fresh basil.

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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.

By the way, we made a little video of a quick and easy way to slice bell peppers. Enjoy!

Peperonata Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6


  • 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.

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Showing 4 of 21 Comments

  • Dan

    I make a variation of this, peperonata in agrodolce. Pretty much the same thing, with the following differences:
    – I cook the onions separately until they are well caramelized. For that, they need more heat time than the peppers.
    – when peppers and onions are almost done to my liking I mix then together and add about 1/2 cup good vinegar and a couple tbsp sugar, or honey. Then boil until the vinegar aroma boils off. This is the agrodolce part. I also add some raisins at this stage.
    – right at the end I add a couple tbsp breadcrumbs. The italians seem to add these into everything if you look at italian language recipe sites.
    Then I store them in a jar with basil leaves in layers. They get better after a couple of days, if they last that long.

    Sounds delicious Dan, thanks for sharing! ~Elise

  • Sherihan

    Hey Elise, I was just thinking what to make to go alongside my tuna steaks today and I think I found it :) this looks delicious, I can already smell it mmmmm yumm and I am thinking of adding little cupes of potatoes as well, sounds goooood :)

  • Toni

    It’s funny – when one poster wrote about not liking pepper skins unless raw – because I’m the same way. If even a corner of a cooked pepper is coming up, I have to struggle and rip it off. For whatever strange reason, cooked peeling pepper skin is not something I can endure eating. Yuck!

    But other posters wrote about slow cooking the peppers – my question to them (or to you!) would be how to avoid that? Would going through that process of charring and steaming and peeling the skins off be the only way to avoid this? That also changes the consistency of the pepper, no?

    PS – I’m 100% Italian-American, and BOY do I love the smell of oregano! And strangely enough, I can’t stand eating raw tomatoes. LOVE sauce though! Just starting to be able to eat cooked – my family still teases me about the raw tomato thing. Every year I try to eat one of my dad’s home grown tomatoes, and every year I continue to dislike it. Maybe one day. Sigh! ;)

  • Don

    We made this last night and it was wonderful. The colors, textures and tastes were beautiful. Served with a bit of rice on the side. Next time, will add some bread crumbs and adopt other suggestions from posts.

  • Angela

    This would make a great pizza topping!

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