Peperonata, or sweet pepper stew, is one of those classic Italian dishes. It is a great side dish, and is often served with fish or meat.
I love Peperonata because it is such a vibrant, colours-of-the-rainbow dish. And like pesto, it is one of those dishes that, over time, you can tweak and experiment with until you have your own tried-and-true signature Peperonata recipe!
The core ingredients in Peperonata are capsicum (bell pepper), red onion, garlic and olive oil, but every family has their own variation. Some add olives, tomatoes, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, mild chillies and fresh herbs such as basil and flat leaf parsley. Some brighten it with lemon juice or zest or add depth of flavour with sweet paprika.
Different families seem to hold pretty strong views about how the capsicums/peppers should be chopped. Some insist that the onion and capsicum should be cut into long thin slices (this was how I was taught), while others insist on a chunky dice. Try a few different ways, but remember that all ingredients should be chopped to roughly the same size.
Cooking time is also an area of difference. Some cook their peppers low and slow until they are super soft and almost caramelised. Others choose a quick cook over high heat, almost like a stir fry.
In my view, there is no wrong way to make peperonata. Try a few different tweaks until you find a recipe that makes your tastebuds sing.
1 red capsicum (bell pepper), cored and sliced
1 green capsicum (bell pepper), cored and sliced
1 yellow capsicum (bell pepper), cored and sliced
2 red/purple onions, peeled and sliced
1 punnet (200g) cherry or plum tomatoes, cut into halves or quarters
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
OPTIONAL (but highly recommended!): 1 generous handful olives, 1 generous handful torn basil leaves
Salt and pepper
Place all ingredients (except basil) into a large pan and cook over medium heat until cooked through, stirring occasionally. It is up to you to decide how long you want to cook your peperonata. I recommend experimenting with different cooking times until you decide how you like it.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with fresh herbs
Serve with fish, chickpeas, or as a warm salad over a bed of greens.