Italian sweet red peppers sing in the summer with their wonderful colors and delicate flavors. They are especially welcome on the table in August, when there is always more of them: fresh from the garden, and fresh from the nearby grower whose stand at the market goes fast. Sliced and stuffed with a savory blend of walnuts, Roma tomatoes, and cheese, these Italian sweet red peppers are simple yet loaded with flavor.
ITALIAN SWEET PEPPER
ITALIAN SWEET PEPPER
HEAT RATING IN SCOVILLES:
0 – 100
Long and conical in shape, the Italian Sweet Pepper is a popular variety of chile pepper commonly used in Italian cooking. Often referred to as a frying pepper, it is frequently sautéed in olive oil and added to a variety of foods such as pasta, meats, pizza, or salad greens.
Generally, this Italian pepper is harvested when it reaches 6 to 8 inches in length and may be still be young and green colored or it may be allowed to mature to a bright red colored pepper. The Italian Sweet Pepper may also be referred to as an Italian Sweet Relleno Pepper or a Sweet Italian Frying Pepper.
The Italian Sweet Pepper has a medium thick flesh that provides a slightly sweet flavor. It addition to being sautéed, it is often roasted, filled with stuffings, served fresh in salads or as a snack.
Italian Long Sweet Red Chile Peppers
Italian Long Sweet Red chile peppers are elongated, curved to straight pods, averaging 20 to 25 centimeters in length, and have a conical shape that tapers to a point on the non-stem end. The pods often appear twisted with prominent folds and creases, and the skin is smooth, glossy, and waxy, ripening from green to red when mature. Underneath the surface, the flesh is crisp and aqueous, encasing a narrow cavity filled with small white membranes and round and flat, cream-colored seeds. Fresh Italian Long Sweet Red chile peppers have a mild, sweet flavor with little to no spice, and when cooked, they develop a complex, smoky-sweet taste.
Italian Long Sweet Red chile peppers are available in the summer through fall.
Italian Long Sweet Red chile peppers, botanically classified as Capsicum annuum, are the mature versions of mild, sweet varieties from Italy that belong to the Solanaceae or nightshade family. Also commonly referred to as Italianelles or Italian Frying peppers, Italian Long Sweet Red chile peppers are harvested when the pod is fully mature and at its sweetest flavor. There are many varieties of Italian Long Sweet Red chile peppers, and while the peppers are not produced commercially, they are primarily found through local markets, small farms, and home gardeners. The peppers range 0-100 SHU on the Scoville scale, which represents little to no heat, and they are most often used fried, stuffed, or roasted.
Italian Long Sweet Red chile peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that can help build collagen in the body and boost the immune system. The peppers also contain some potassium, vitamin A, folate, manganese, and vitamin K.
Italian Long Sweet Red chile peppers are best suited for both raw and cooked applications such as roasting, frying, and grilling. When fresh, the peppers can be consumed out-of-hand as a snack, used as a vessel for dips, blended into sauces and salsas, chopped into salads, or diced for fresh relishes. The peppers can also be sliced and stirred into soups, mixed into pasta, sprinkled over pizza, or stuffed with available fillings and roasted. In Italy, Italian Long Sweet Red chile peppers are traditionally heated in olive oil in a pan and fried until the skin is translucent or browned on both sides. The skin and seeds are left on the pepper as they are believed to add to the overall flavor, and the fried peppers are popularly served as a side dish to grilled meats. The peppers are also cooked with sausage and onions in the well-known dish pepperonata. In addition to cooked preparations, the peppers can be dried, crumbled into a coarse powder, and used as a spice over pasta or cooked meats. Italian Long Sweet Red chile peppers pair well with herbs such as rosemary, basil, oregano, and thyme, tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic, polenta, anchovies, other seafood, and meats such as beef, pork, and poultry. Fresh peppers will keep up to one week when stored whole and unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Throughout Southern Italy, Italian Long Sweet Red peppers are famous for stuffing, and each region has its own unique recipes depending on the available ingredients. In the Abruzzo region, Italian Long Sweet Red peppers are stuffed with light ingredient including vegetables such as mushrooms, zucchini, and eggplant, and are mixed with a combination of seafood or cooked meats, a reflection of the town’s positioning between mountains and coastline. The stuffed peppers are also often filled with leftover ingredients in order to reduce food waste and are served alongside a salad as an appetizer. Stuffed peppers are a traditional dish that is passed down between generations within Italian families, and the peppers are commonly grown in home gardens for everyday use.
Italian Long Sweet Red chile peppers are native to Italy, where they have been cultivated since ancient times. Italian peppers are descendants of peppers originally from Central and South America and were introduced to Europe via Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the 15th and 16th centuries. Since their introduction, peppers have been cultivated for many years across Italy and the rest of the Mediterranean and new varieties have been bred for specific traits, like the sweet nature of the Italian Long eet Red chile pepper. The peppers were also brought to the United States in the early 20th century through Italian immigrants. Today Italian Long Sweet Red chile peppers are not commercially produced and can be found through small farms at farmer’s markets in Europe and the United States. The seeds are also available through online catalogs for home garden use.
Italian Sweet Pepper ‘Carmen’ (Capsicum hybrid)
This plant bears sweet, red, horn-shaped Peppers early in the season. The mild sweet flavor adapts well to nearly any recipe calling for peppers, fresh or cooked. This is a great choice for urban gardeners to grow on a balcony or any small-space setting. This was selected as an All-America Selections winner in 2006.
Excellent used fresh or can be stuffed and baked, fried, or grilled. Preserve by canning, drying, or freezing. Wash fruits, vegetables and herbs thoroughly before eating.
|Height Range:||24-30″ (61-76cm)|
|Space Range:||18-24″ (46-61cm)|
|Lowest Temperature:||40° to 50°F (4° to 10°C)|
|Plant Light:||Full Sun|
|Companion Plants:||Marigold, Tomato, Parsley|
|Days To Maturity:||70-80|
|Fruit Size:||5-6″ (13-15cm)|
Peperonata (Sweet Bell Peppers With Olive Oil, Onion, and Tomatoes) Recipe
WHY IT WORKS
- Slow cooking over very low heat breaks down the vegetables and concentrates their flavors.
Quick: How many dishes can you name with bell peppers as the one and only star ingredient?
I asked myself this question recently and got stuck on crudités. And even that’s not a good answer, because a raw vegetable platter gives equal billing to all the other options, from celery sticks to carrots.
Stuffed peppers? I’d argue that the stuffing is just as important.
Roasted pepper pasta? Nah, it can’t exist without the pasta.
See what I mean? As much as we use peppers in all sorts of dishes, they almost never get the spotlight all to themselves. Except for in peperonata. If you haven’t heard of it, peperonata is a side dish from southern Italy that features sweet summer bell peppers cooked down in plenty of olive oil until they’re meltingly soft. It’s so simple, it belongs in our collection of easy Summer Recipes.
Sure, there are a few other ingredients. There’s some tomato in there, and certainly some onion and garlic. You can hit it with a splash of wine vinegar for a little sweet-sour effect, or add an herb like basil or oregano for some extra layers of aromatics. But peperonata is ultimately all about those peppers.
So let’s start there: This dish is most worth making in the summer, when bell peppers are intensely sweet and flavorful. That sweetness is important, since it forms the base of the gentle sweet-sour character that makes peperonata so good. Out-of-season peppers can be used, but you may need to sprinkle on a tiny bit of sugar to get the flavor balance right. Green bell peppers, which are just red or yellow ones before they turn ripe, have no place in this dish for the very same reason—they bring very little natural sugar to the table.
To make it, I start by slicing bell peppers into strips. Be sure to trim away any of the white ribs inside the peppers.
I gently cook sliced garlic in a generous amount of olive oil until it shows the first hints of turning golden.
Next, I add sliced onions and get them started on their way to softness.
I don’t let the onions go too long before adding the peppers, though. Peppers need quite a bit of time to fully soften, so it’s better to get them into the pot sooner than later.
I let the peppers cook for a bit, until they start to compress. You’ll notice that at first they nearly fill this pot. That’s because they’re so rigid that they stack up with lots of space between them.
Once they’ve started to collapse, I add some tomato puree, which I make by simply blending canned whole tomatoes with their juices.
I also throw in some herbs. In this case, I’ve used sprigs of fresh basil, which I love in this dish, but oregano and marjoram are excellent choices, too.
I let the whole thing simmer over moderate heat until the peppers are totally softened and bathed in a rich sauce of their own reduced juices mixed with the olive oil; that can take up to an hour or so, so be patient. A touch of wine vinegar right at the end helps brighten the whole thing up.
This is another one of those dishes that’s good hot, but even better served at room temperature after spending a night in the fridge. It’s great alongside roasted meats or as a side dish that’s part of a larger spread, as well as spooned onto good, crusty rustic bread.
One bite is enough to make me believe that bell peppers are capable of a lot more starring roles than they’re given. But even if they’re destined to be a one-hit wonder, this is a heck of a hit.
Serves:4 to 8 servings
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 6 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 medium yellow onions, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 4 pounds red, yellow, and/or orange bell peppers (about 6 large bell peppers), stemmed, seeded, and sliced lengthwise 1/2 inch thick
- 1 cup pureed tomatoes (see notes)
- 2 sprigs basil or oregano
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat 1/2 cup olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until just starting to turn golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in onions, increase heat to medium-high, and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, about 20 minutes.
- Add tomato and basil or oregano sprigs and stir to combine. Bring to a gentle simmer, then lower heat to maintain simmer. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until peppers are very soft, about 1 hour. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and season with salt. Stir in vinegar (see notes). Discard herb sprigs. Serve right away, or chill, then serve reheated, slightly chilled, or at room temperature.
For the pureed tomatoes, you can use a puree of fresh peeled and seeded tomatoes that have been briefly cooked to concentrate their flavor, or canned whole tomatoes that you’ve blended with their juices. (Canned tomatoes are often the better choice, since they are usually top-quality.) If you make this with beautiful, ripe summer bell peppers, they should provide enough sweetness to balance the small amount of vinegar. If your peppers are less sweet and the peperonata tastes a little too tart, add a tiny bit of sugar, a pinch at a time, until the flavor is balanced.