Peperonata is a rustic Italian stew of sweet bell peppers long simmered into a tender melt-in-your-mouth sauce. It is often a side dish, or a topping for crusty bruschetta, but in this recipe it is a sauce that is used to flavor and tenderize pork chops. A common problem with pork chops is that they tend to dry out in the cooking process. This easy recipe is a way to ensure those pork chops are tender, juicy and full of late summer flavor. Not to mention it is beautiful!
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The key ingredients of a classic peperonata sauce includes sweet bell peppers, onions, garlic and oil. Some cooks will add mushrooms and some will add anchovies. A list of additions and substitutions are included below the photo.
- Peppers: Using different colors of bell peppers definitely adds to the visual appeal of this dish. Red bell peppers are the sweetest of the bunch and my favorite. Don’t use green bell peppers and they have more of a vegetal flavor rather than a sweet flavor.
- Onions: Yellow onions are the standard. Purple or white can be used but they don’t caramelize as nicely.
- Tomato base: tomato puree has the most concentrated flavor. Some cooks will use fresh tomatoes or tomato paste mellowed out with the addition of water
- Garlic: fresh is best but use the bottled minced garlic if that is all you have. Avoid the garlic powder.
- Sugar and Salt: Just a touch of these really enhances the flavor of the vegetables in this sauce. It doesn’t take much….just a pinch.
- Vinegar: This is another ingredient that really enhances flavor. I used red wine vinegar, but any vinegar will work as the acid component
- Oil: I always use olive oil in cooking, especially in Italian cooking! As long as you are not doing high heat frying, olive oil is fine. No need for the high end olive oil though!
- Vegetable additions: Some cooks like to add mushrooms, zucchini or eggplant when first cooking the peppers
- Spice: Add 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite powdered spicy chile pepper (or use red pepper flakes for a milder version)
- Herbs: basil and/or oregano are the classic Italian herbs that add flavor
Illustrated Step by Step:
Detailed directions can be found in the recipe card below. These illustrated directions do a good job of summarizing the steps however:
Another great use of peperonata for a low carb dinner is to use it as a topping on this bunless burger recipe.
Italian Pork Chops in Peperonata Sauce
- 1 large onion thinly sliced
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Pound sweet bell peppers (~2 cups sliced) Can use jarred peppers if fresh are unavailable
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 Cup tomato puree if you don’t have puree, use 1/3 cup tomato paste and 2/3 cups water
- ½ Teaspoon salt
- 2 Teaspoons red wine vinegar
- ½ Teaspoon sugar optional
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 4 pork chops (thick and bone-in)
- Slice the onion(s) thinly and cook in oil over medium heat until softened and slightly caramelized. Don’t brown them. This can take 5-10 minutes.1 large onion, 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- While the onions are cooking, half the peppers and remove seeds and veins. Then slice them into 1/4-inch strips.1 Pound sweet bell peppers
- Add garlic and sliced peppers to the skillet and continue cooking over medium heat for 10 minutes.3 cloves garlic
- Stir in tomato puree and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in vinegar and sugar and simmer another 10 minutes.1 Cup tomato puree, 1/2 Teaspoon salt, 2 Teaspoons red wine vinegar, 1/2 Teaspoon sugar
- While the peperonata sauce is simmering, brown the pork chops in oil on both sides in another skillet over medium-high heat. This takes about 3-5 minutes per side.After chops are browned, add the peperonata sauce to the skillet with the chops, cover and simmer over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until chops are done (no longer pink). Don’t overcook the pork chops.4 pork chops (thick and bone-in)
- Serve with the pork chops smothered in sauce and place additional sauce in a bowl on the table.