Side DishQuick and EasyItalianVegetarian

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

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 / Reviews

  • 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

  • Jennifer Jo

    This is excellent over pasta with a glass of white wine.

  • Cooking with Michele

    I learned to make pepperonata at a cooking school in Puglia – 100% peppers slow cooked for a long time and tossed with some garlicky bread crumbs right before serving. It’s one of my favorite recipes from the school and I’m looking forward to taking another group there in the fall of 2011.

  • DessertForTwo

    Oh yum! Now I have an idea what to do with all the peppers over-flowing from the garden. I’m imagining an eggplant parmesan sub with this all over the top! Mmmm!

  • Amy M

    This looks super delish! I imagine it being a great topping on homemade pizza…with the addition of some spicy peppers. I wonder, is there any way to preserve large batches of this? Would you recommend it in the freezer?

    I haven’t tried freezing this, but if you do, please let us know how it turns out for you. ~Elise

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