This peperonata is a classic Italian recipe of stewed bell peppers, onions and tomatoes. An easy side dish that’s great when served with grilled meats, spooned over crostini or stirred into pasta.
Whenever I have extra bell peppers on hand, I whip up a batch of this peperonata. This dish really lets the sweet and savory bell peppers shine through, and can be paired with so many different options to create a meal.
What is peperonata?
Peperonata is an Italian dish that features slow cooked bell peppers, onions and tomatoes. Other seasonings may be added, but the true purpose of the dish is to showcase ripe summer bell peppers and tomatoes.
How do you make peperonata?
Start by cooking onions in a mixture of butter and olive oil. After the onions have started to soften, add the bell peppers and continue to cook until all the veggies are tender. Stir in garlic, tomatoes and seasonings, then bring the mixture to a low simmer. Let the stew cook until the peppers are super soft and the tomatoes form a sauce. Add fresh herbs for garnish, then serve and enjoy.
Tips for the perfect side dish
- Cut your peppers into similar size pieces so that they cook at the same rate.
- I recommend using red, yellow or orange bell peppers, or a combination of the three. Green bell peppers have more of a bitter flavor and aren’t as well suited for this dish.
- Don’t rush your stew, you want to give it enough time for the peppers to really soften and melt into the dish.
- Peperonata can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, and will stay fresh in the freezer for 2 months.
- You can use fresh peeled and diced tomatoes if they’re in season, or canned tomatoes in the colder weather months. I often use canned San Marzano plum tomatoes which I dice before adding to the pot.
How to use peperonata
You can serve this dish as a side to any number of main course options, or you can use it as a base for other meal options.
- Pizza: Spread a thin layer of peperonata over the top of a cheese pizza before it goes into the oven.
- Pasta: Stir the peppers into pasta to serve as a sauce. Add your choice of protein if desired.
- Crostini: Pile toasted bread high with peperonata for an easy and elegant appetizer.
- Polenta: Serve this dish over polenta for a vegetarian main course.
- Topping: Spoon the stew over grilled chicken, fish or steak.
This stew is delicious as-is, but you can add other ingredients to customize the flavors to your tastes.
- Vegetables: It’s definitely less traditional, but you can add other veggies such as artichoke hearts, eggplant, zucchini or yellow squash.
- Flavorings: Feel free to stir in other flavorings such as olives, capers or sun dried tomatoes.
- Cheese: Finish the dish with a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese.
- Protein: Make it a meal by stirring in some cooked Italian sausage or sliced grilled chicken.
Once you try this dish, you’ll find yourself making it on a regular basis. It’s just that good!
More side dishes to savor
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 onion thinly sliced
- 2 red bell peppers cored, seeded and sliced
- 2 yellow bell peppers cored, seeded and sliced
- 2 orange bell peppers cored, seeded and sliced
- 2 teaspoons garlic minced
- 4 plum tomatoes fresh or canned (San Marzano), seeded and diced
- 2 sprigs fresh basil plus more for garnish
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes or until just softened.
- Add the red, yellow and orange bell peppers. Cook for 6-8 minutes or until tender.
- Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper and sugar.
- Reduce the heat to medium low and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are very soft and the tomatoes have broken down to form a sauce. If the mixture seems dry as it cooks you can add a tablespoon of water as needed.
- Remove the basil sprigs and discard. Let cool slightly, then taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Serve, garnished with additional basil.