Why It Works
- Slow cooking over very low heat breaks down the vegetables and concentrates their flavors.
Few dishes feature bell peppers as the one and only main ingredient, which makes Southern Italian peperonata not only a delicious summer side dish, but also a fairly unique one. Starring sweet summer bell peppers stewed in olive oil with onions, garlic, and tomato, it's wonderful with roasted meats or spooned onto slices of country bread.
- 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 note)
- 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 note). 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.