Peperonata (peh-peh-roh-NAH-tah) is an Italian vegetable dish of slow-cooked, or stewed bell peppers with onion and garlic. Of course there are variations and some Italian cooks will add tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, or other vegetables. This recipe heightens the flavor of peperonata with an Italian romesco sauce served over a creamy bed of butternut squash.
What is Peperonata?
Peperonata is a Southern Italian dish that features sweet summer bell peppers cooked down in olive oil until they’re meltingly soft. The peppers themselves are the star of the show, and while it often includes onions and garlic, you do want to keep it simple and let the flavor of the stewed peppers shine.
Some cooks will add tomatoes or herbs or maybe even a little vinegar, but ultimately the focus is on the peppers.
The traditional way to make peperonata is to cook a couple of cloves of minced garlic with a half of a onion (sliced) in olive oil over low heat for about 10 minutes until translucent.
Season with salt and pepper and add 5 or 6 bell peppers that are quartered and of different colors and cook low and slow until the bell peppers are softened.
How to Use Peperonata
The classic Italian way to use peperonata is as a side dish. It is also used as a sort of bruschetta on some toasted bread.
I like following a slow carb lifestyle that includes a lot of protein, so I tend to use pepperonata as a topping for meat or vegetables in a slow carb dinner.
In the recipe below I have used it mixed into ground beef and served with a side of butternut squash topped with Italian romesco sauce. A perfect slow carb Fall dinner!
I have also enjoyed the robust flavor of this stewed pepper blend simmered with pork chops as in the photo below:
And keeping with the slow carb diet plan, I had a great meal of peperonata on top of a bunless burger:
Lastly, peperonata could easily add flavor to mild white fish filets. Take advantage of the late season glut of sweet bell peppers and add this quick, simple pepper sauté to your dinner plans. Throw in a few spicy chile peppers to liven it up even further!
Italian Romesco Sauce
We sometimes have the luxury of an extra long growing season in Minnesota, and when that happens I am able to harvest a boatload of different sweet and hot peppers, along with a bountiful harvest of heirloom squash.
It is always easiest to design a dinner around what is in your fridge (or in this case your garden), and the bright orange bell peppers and squash inspired this Italian Fall dinner with peperonata taking center stage.
The Italian Romesco sauce made with tomatoes, peppers and almonds added sweetness and creaminess without any refined sugar or flour. The beta carotene from the orange peppers and butternut squash added nutrition, along with eye-popping color.
However you decide to mix it up, classic or uniquely yours, peperonata can be a stupendous stand alone side dish or used as a sauté topping for proteins or vegetables on a low carb lifestyle.
Peperonata with Butternut Squash
- 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 ½ to 2 cups assorted sweet peppers chopped
- 1 medium onion roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 ½ tsp anchovy paste or 2 anchovy filets (optional)
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 2 Tbsp Romesco sauce (optional)
- Heat olive oil in a large (12-inch skillet or saute pan over high heat. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.2-3 Tbsp olive oil
- Add the peppers and onions to the skillet and saute, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute quickly being careful not to burn the garlic (only needs about 30 seconds. Add anchovy paste to skillet if you’re using it.Season with salt and pepper.1 1/2 to 2 cups assorted sweet peppers, 1 medium onion, 3 cloves garlic, 1 1/2 tsp anchovy paste or 2 anchovy filets, salt & pepper to taste
- Lower the heat to medium and continue cooking until the onions are translucent and the peppers are soft (about another 10 minutes).
- While the peppers are cooking cut the squash in half and place on baking sheet flesh-side down. Cook squash at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.1 medium butternut squash
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.salt & pepper to taste
- Check to see if squash is done by poking flesh with a fork and if it gives easily it is done.
- Serve the peperonata as a topping on ground beef or sausage with the squash on the side topped with Romesco sauce (or just butter).2 Tbsp Romesco sauce
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