Peperonata is a rustic Italian recipe with bell peppers stewed low and slow in olive oil with onions, tomatoes and garlic until fork tender, perfect as an appetizer or as a pasta sauce. Learn how to make classic Italian peperonata.
Italian Peperonata Sauce
We're cooking up a wonderful Italian recipe that celebrates the incredible flavor of the sweet bell pepper. It's called Peperonata, and it may become your favorite new appetizer or antipasto dish.
What is Peperonata?
Peperonata is a rustic Italian dish, where sweet, colorful bell peppers are slowly stewed with onions, tomatoes and garlic, until they become meltingly tender.
It's a mix between a sauce, a spread, and a topper, as all of the ingredients are cooked low and slow in oil, allowing them to break down and infuse the oil with loads of flavor.
It is sometimes made with other vegetables that are available, depending on the season, and on the preference of the cook. This recipe focuses on the bell peppers, though I'm also using plump tomatoes, onion and garlic with basil for my very favorite peperonata ever.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Let's talk about how to make peperonata, shall we?
- Olive Oil.
- Bell Peppers. I use red bells, but you can use multiple colors, such as green bell peppers, orange or yellow as well.
- Sea Salt and Black Pepper.
- Fresh Basil. Or other fresh herbs.
- Spicy Chili Flakes. Optional, for a touch of spice.
- Balsamic Vinegar. For finishing, if desired.
How to Make Peperonata - the Recipe Method
Olive Oil. First, add the olive oil to a large pan and heat it through to medium-low heat. I love to use a good quality extra virgin olive oil, which you'll notice in the final flavor of the dish.
Add the Vegetables. Add the tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and garlic. I like to add them all at once and just let them simmer.
Light Seasonings. Season with salt and pepper to your personal tastes and stir.
Simmer the Peperonata. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, on medium-low for 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how softened you’d like your peperonata.
Adjust Seasoning and Garnish. Adjust for salt and pepper, then garnish with basil (whole or chopped).
Optional Chili Flakes and Vinegar. Sprinkle with spicy red pepper flakes and if you’d like a bit of extra flavor and heat. Splash with your favorite balsamic vinegar for an additional flavor pop.
Boom! Done! Your peperonata is ready to serve. Doesn't it look delicious? So vibrant and colorful. It tastes as good as it looks.
Peperonata is typically served with crusty bread so you can sop up all of that wonderful oil that has been infused in the pan. Scoop it over toasted bread for a version of bruschetta or for appetizers.
You can serve it with pasta as a sauce, which I have done many times, and I love it.
Consider serving it over polenta as well. It makes a great side dish.
You can toss in a protein to make more of a meal out of it, such as sliced Italian sausage, roasted chicken breast or other grilled meats, sautéed shrimp, or perhaps a nicely poached white fish.
Cooking time for peperonata can vary from place to place, depending on your preference.
Additional ingredients vary from region to region as well. While the base ingredients typically include sweet peppers, onions, tomatoes and garlic, other ingredients you might include are potato, eggplant (see my Ajvar recipe), olives, capers, zucchini, or more.
Additional seasonings might include lemon, sugar, other herbs, parsley.
If you're looking for a spicier version of this recipe, consider adding in some hotter peppers, like red jalapeno peppers, serrano peppers, even habaneros or Scotch Bonnets. Those will really spice things up!
You'll also find peperonata spelled "pepperonata", which is more of an Americanized spelling, though each spelling is correct. Regardless of how you decide to spell it, it's crazy delicious!
Cook your peperonata low and slow for 15 minutes for just softened peppers, or 1 hour or more for peppers that fall apart from the slow cooking. It really depends on your personal preference. I enjoy the peppers when they are very soft.
So delicious this way.
Some people cook the garlic first, then the onion, then the peppers, but I’ve made it multiple ways now and it’s really easiest to just toss everything into the pan and let it do its thing.
The key, though, is the amount of olive oil used in the recipe. It may sound like a lot, but you need that much oil to cook everything down.
That's it, my friends! I hope you enjoy your new Italian peperonta recipe! Let me know how you're serving yours up. I'd love to hear!
Try Some of My Other Popular Sauce Recipes
- Chimichurri (Chimichurri Verde)
- Red Chimichurri (Chimichurri Rojo)
- Homemade Harissa
- Sweet Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
- Peri Peri Sauce
- Romesco Sauce
If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you'll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don't forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I'll be sure to share! Thanks! -- Mike H.
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 4 large bell peppers sliced into strips (red is best, but you can use orange or yellow as well)
- 2 pounds plump tomatoes blanched, peeled and chopped(and seeded, if desired – canned works great, too)
- 1 medium onion sliced (white or yellow)
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Basil leaves for serving
- Spicy pepper flakes and balsamic vinegar for serving optional
- Add the olive oil to a large pan and heat it through to medium-low.
- Add the peppers, tomatoes, onion and garlic.
- Season with salt and pepper and stir.
- Cover and cook on medium-low for 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how softened you’d like your peperonata.
- Adjust for salt and pepper, then garnish with basil (whole or chopped). Sprinkle with spicy chili flakes if you’d like a bit of extra flavor and heat.
NOTE: This recipe was updated on 3/24/22 to include new information, photos and video. It was originally published on 12-3-18.