This simple but flavorful antipasto hails from the prosperous region of Piemonte in northwest Italy. The region has a relatively obscure but fascinating cuisine, perhaps best known for its iconic bagna cauda. This dish, peperoni alla piemontese, or Bell Peppers in the Style of Piemonte, features an anchovy sauce very much like the bagna cauda. But rather than the sauce serving as a dip for raw vegetables, here bell peppers are roasted before a brief simmer in the sauce, allowing the flavors of veg and sauce to meld.
Interestingly, more or less the same ingredients figure in yet another antipasto, peperoni con alici, roasted peppers mixed with whole, uncooked anchovy fillets and dressed with garlic and oil. All three antipasti are delicious but very different one from another. I find it a source of endless fascination that Italian cookery can take essentially the same list of ingredients and, by varying technique and measurements, come up with such variety. The richness of Italian cuisine owes much to this ingenuity.
This is a dish for lovers of bold flavors, especially the briny goodness of the anchovy. Many recipes will assure you the anchovy is only there for the umami and you can hardly taste them. Not so for peperoni alla piemontese. If you have an aversion to anchovies, you might want to avoid this dish. But since I love anchovies, I actually make extra sauce so I can sop it up with a nice hunk of crusty bread. A generous portion of my version of this dish is a one-dish meal.
Serves 4-6 as an antipasto
- 6 bell peppers
- 25 g (2 Tb) butter
- 50 ml (3-1/2 Tbs) olive oil
- 1 whole clove of garlic
- 8 anchovy fillets
Roast the peppers and, when they are cool enough to handle, skin and de-seed them. (See Notes below for details.) Cut the peppers into strips.
Heat the butter and oil in a skillet, then add the garlic and anchovy fillets. Cook over gentle heat for a couple of minutes, until the anchovies have melted, stirring constantly.
Discard the garlic and add the pepper strips. Let them simmer in the anchovy sauce for a few minutes, just long enough so that the flavors meld.
Serve at room temperature.
Notes on Peperoni alla piemontese
The sheer simplicity of this recipe make it very hard to go wrong. The only tricky part to making peperoni alla piemontese is roasting the peppers, but even that isn’t really all that difficult (see below). In a pinch, you could resort to jarred roasted peppers, but do be careful to avoid any marinated or packed in citric acid as a preservative, as many are. They would lend the dish a rather “jarring” acidity to this dish (pun intended).
Otherwise, as always the success of the dish will depend largely on the ingredients, in particular the olive oil and anchovies. For the olive oil, I would actually go for a lighter olive oil, ideally a Ligurian one, rather than an intensely fruity southern oil. As for the anchovies, go for ones packed in salt, if you can find them. They need rinsing and de-boning before use. Otherwise, best quality anchovies packed in oil will do fine. (I particularly like the ones from Agostino Recca. Yes, they are a bit pricey but deliciously plump, worth every penny. )
For a different take on peperoni alla piemontese, rather than simmering the roasted peppers in the sauce, you can arrange them in a decorative arrangement on a serving dish and nap them with the sauce you’ve made separately. It makes for a more elegant presentation perhaps, but I find this method more toothsome. The sauce gets a chance to penetrate into the peppers and, equally, the peppers lend a lovely scent to the sauce as well.
Other dishes by the same name?
Confusingly, there are some other antipasto that go by the same name, including one where roasted peppers are left whole and stuffed with a tunafish purée.
And as a blogger friend has pointed out in the comments, Elizabeth David proposes a recipe for peperoni alla pimontese where you cut the peppers into halves or quarters then top them with garlic, anchovy, butter and oil, then roast them in the oven until they are aromatic but still al dente. David’s recipe provides yet another illustration of the point I was making at the top of the post—same ingredients, but entirely different dish!
How to Roast a Pepper
Roasting bell peppers is one of those basic techniques that every aspiring Italian cook should master. The good news is that it is very simple indeed. It is a matter of applying intense dry heat to the outside of the pepper by grilling, broiling or convection oven-roasting. Or, if you want to be truly traditional, hold the pepper over an open flame, turning it until the skin has blistered on all sides. The pepper is then wrapped up and left to steam for a good ten minutes or more, until the pepper has cooled enough to handle. In the meanwhile, the pepper will have softened and its skin loosened enough to be scraped off with a paring knife or simply rubbed off with your fingers. For details see on post on How to Roast a Pepper.
Peperoni alla piemontese
- 6 6 bell peppers
- 25g 2 Tbs butter
- 50ml 3-1/2 Tbs olive oil
- 1-2 whole clove of garlic slightly crushed
- 8 anchovy fillets or more, to taste
- Roast the peppers and, when they are cool enough to handle, skin and de-seed them. Cut the peppers into strips.
- Heat the butter and oil in a skillet, then add the garlic and anchovy fillets. Cook over gentle heat for a couple of minutes, until the anchovies have melted, stirring constantly.
- Discard the garlic and add the pepper strips. Let them simmer in the anchovy sauce for a few minutes, just long enough so that the flavors meld.
- Serve at room temperature
I’ve been secretly hoping you would post a recipe for classic peperonata, this is version new to me and sounds lovely! Can’t wait to give it a try
Actually, I do have a post on peperonata, only I’ve called it by a different name, peperoni in padellaPeperoni in padella (Angelina’s Fried Peppers). Do check it out…
Irresistible summer lunch to have with a slice of cheese and ciabatta. Meraviglioso !
Thanks, guys! 🙂
I love recipes using anchovies and this one is beautiful. Can’t wait to try it! 🙂 ~Valentina
A. I love anchovies. (Just wait until this weekend’s post!)
B. I love peppers and have a bunch from the market.
C. I will love them together with the bread that is baking in the oven.
It’s as simple as ABC! Hope you enjoy this one, David. And I think you will.
Frank, you’ve honored the poor misunderstood anchovies. Me, I love the little salty jewels. We roast peppers very often, so this one’s a no-brainer for me. Thanks for sharing…
Hope you like it, Ron! I never understood why anchovies got to be so “controversial” in some circles. But I never had any doubts, even as a kid I loved them.
I somehow inherited a fear of anchovies from my parents, who were kidnapped and held for ransom by a band of anchovies. Or you’d think so, based on their feelings toward anchovies. But at the same time, I actually love anchovies. So, it’s very Freudian for me, loving them and yet feeling like I’m not supposed to.
Those are some deep waters, Jeff!
what’s an Italian kitchen without anchovies? thanks for another great recipe Frank!
Indeed! Thanks for stopping by, Letizia. 🙂
Growing up in an Italian neighborhood in Philadelphia in the 1950’s you could always tell when the corner green grocer had a sale on peppers. The entire neighborhood smelled of roasting peppers. I’ve eaten them all my life but never with anchovies and butter. I made this recipe but didn’t tell my wife who doesn’t like anchovies. So they were in a dish on the kitchen counter and she walked by and stuck a fork in one. She said hmmm good. I’ll never tell her about the anchovies.
Wonderful story, Carmen. Funny she didn’t pick up on the anchovy! Or maybe it’s more than idea of anchovies she doesn’t like than the actual flavor?
So funny. I just made some fried, long whole peppers where you slip an anchovy inside (from Rosetta Costantino’s cookbook, “My Calabria.” This is very reminiscent of that, although your recipe uses roasted, peeled peppers, and the anchovy adds a great flavor that most people can’t pinpoint.
I’ll have to check out Rosetta’s recipe. Sounds really nice, too. F
yum yum i love capsicums especially when baked and i love anchovies. this looks so tasty Frank!
I love that it’s roasted peppers that are used, great flavours from the roasting method. What a beautiful dish, unfortunately my better half is not a anchovy fan but I may break the rules and just add a couple so it’s not so forward.
Ha! Or just save some extra sauce for yourself… ? That’s what I would do. 😉
Great dish. The food of Piemonte is one of the best in Italy – great is the savoury and sweet department alike, unusually for an italian regional cousine (and, of course, the wines and cheese are amongst the best in the country. .. and the ricotta too actually)
Here in the UK Piedmontese peppers are very famous, but the version that most people know is the one Elizabeth David popularized in her Italian Food in the early 1950s: the halved peppers are “stuffed” with slivers of garlic, anchovies, oil and butter and then roasted at high temperature. They should remain “al dente! – equally delicious.
Love this dish, which I have not made in many years (and, yes a Ligurian olive oil or one from Lake Garda (cringingly expensive here: I saw one yesterday at £ 80/lt…!! ) would be ideal here) – Stefano
Stefano, You know I had to look that Elizabeth David recipe up when you mentioned it… Now I’m going to try it. And mention it here, too, since it further illustrates my point about how the same ingredients can get put together different ways for nearly endless variety.
But on the £80 bottle of olive oil… I may have to give it a pass. But I’m interested to hear they make olive oil around Lake Garda. I had no idea!
And all I need with this is two slices of beautifully crusty bread! Lovely!
*smile* I just cannot understand people disliking anchovies ! I eat them most days, admittedly mostly the pickled kind atop my breakfast sandwiches ! I love capsicums also but do not remember putting the two together and in such a simple way 1 By=-he-bye, I have happened upon two TV foodie offerings this past week describing Piemontese dishes . . . am keeping all the recipes to try . . .
Me, neither, Eha. But there seem to be a lot of folks who don’t care for them. “Too fishy” is the comment I usually hear. As if that were a bad thing. 😉 Anyway, sounds like you’re on your way to putting together a lovely Piedmontese meal. Enjoy!
This is Italian perfection! And perhaps a sprig of basil? Or is that maybe not allowed?!!
I think a sprig of basil just before serving sounds rather nice…
That sounds delicious – I often just stick a whole pepper on the gas hob to blacken it.
I love this recipe. Anchovies give a special flavor. Thanks for sharing! Paola
I think when it comes to anchovies, my “to taste” means more. 🙂 This is a terrific dish, and so easy to make. And there are so many dishes that use roasted bell peppers! This one, though, has tons of flavor. How could it not with those anchovies and great olive oil? Very nice — thanks.
Nice to know I’m in good company, John! Thanks for stopping by. 😉
I’m with you on the anchovies, Frank! I love them, along with any sauce I can drag a piece of bread through. This will be coming to a table near me very soon, thank you. Lx
Thanks so much, Linda. And enjoy!