Pepperonata (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, or other Italian vegetables. Romesco is a low carb tomato and pepper sauce thickened with ground almonds. Pepperonata alone or combined with romesco makes a stellar topping for butternut squash.Jump to Recipe
The Basics of a Pepperonata Side Dish
The traditional way to make a pepperonata sauté is to cook 2 cloves of minced garlic and 1/2 sliced onion in 1/4 cup of olive oil over low heat for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add 5 bell peppers that are quartered and of different colors and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the bell peppers are soft.
In one of my low carb Italian dinner options, I added some ground pork, some capers and a bit of anchovy paste. I opted for a creamy butternut squash as the bed for the pepperonata, with the Romesco sauce on the side as a topping.
Pepperonata as a Main Dish
This robust pepper and onion sauce can enhance just about any protein, lending it great flexibility as a main dish. I have used it as a sauce to braise chicken legs in (above photo), as well as a topping for a low carb bunless burger (below)
It could easily add flavor to mild white fish filets, or robustness to pork chops.
The recipe in the card below is only mildly spicy. Just add more jalapenos or your favorite chile pepper to up the heat level. The anchovies add a umami flavor, but the pepperonata is plenty flavorable without them if you want a plant-based sauce.
Boost Flavor with Romesco Sauce
The Romesco Sauce is a blend of heirloom tomatoes, peppers, almonds and spices. It pairs perfectly with squash, as well as many other veggies and meats.
Adding a tomato-almond Romesco Sauce takes it over the top and enhances the flavor even more.
Low Carb Dinner for Fall
We had the luxury of an extra long growing season in Minnesota this year, and I was 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 an Italian Fall dinner with pepperonata taking center stage.
The caramelized onions, peppers and mushrooms of the pepperonata sauce added richness, and the anchovies took it over the top by adding the umami flavors
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, pepperonata can be a stand alone side dish or used as a sauté topping for proteins or vegetables on a low carb lifestyle.
Pepperonata 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 squash as a bed topped with pepperonata and provide Romesco sauce on the side to top off the saute. You could also serve the squash as a side dish without the pepperonata on top, and then just use the Romesco as a topping for the squash alone as an enhanced side dish.2 Tbsp Romesco sauce
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