A Sicilian-Style Rainbow of Vegetables

Rosemary-Fennel Peperonata

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

My fondest memory of peperonata was making it at a beach house we rented in Siracusa, Sicily one summer. The point of renting a house was so we could cook with local foodstuffs and give our small children some time to play on the beach. All my expectations of Sicily were met when we encountered a gorgeous display of ripe fruits and vegetables at an outdoor market along with a talkative fellow proud to boast about his work with the mafia. Great produce and a brush with the mafia – what could be more Sicilian?
The notion of cooking in southern Italy became less fun as the mercury rose. The July weather was sweltering and I understood why our rented house had two kitchens – one indoors and one outside. I took my bushel of produce to the “outdoor” kitchen and proceeded to sweat along with the onions and bell peppers, sautéing them into a soft and silky tangle. The results were worth it and we ate the vegetables picnic-style, over the course of several days, with local cheeses and breads.
Less romantic but much more comfortable is making peperonata in temperate Seattle. One shouldn’t hurry the cooking– it may take 25 to 30 minutes, depending on how soft you like your peppers.
Highly versatile, peperonata can stand alone as a contorno (vegetable side dish) or work into omelet filling or pizza topping. My favorite use is on an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich. Brush Italian bread with garlic-oil and toast it on the grill or in a skillet. Top with shredded cheese, cover and cook until the cheese melts. Then smother with warm peperonata. Use smaller pieces of bread to make a bruschetta-style appetizer. Switch the cuisine to Mexican by changing the fennel to cumin seed and the rosemary to oregano and you have the start of a fajitas meal with the addition of grilled or sautéed chicken or shrimp.
Summer and the season for bell peppers are on the way. Here’s a recipe to start enjoying this beautiful vegetable.

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Rosemary-Fennel Peperonata
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
4 bell peppers (1 each green, red, yellow and orange), about 2 pounds, cut into 1/4-
inch slices
1 large yellow onion (about 1/2 pound), peeled halved and sliced vertically from stem to end
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon fresh, chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 to 3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Garnish: rosemary or fresh basil sprig
Swirl olive oil in large skillet and place over medium-low heat. Add fennel seed and crushed red pepper. When oil is hot, stir in peppers, onion, garlic, rosemary and salt. Cook, stirring often and adjusting heat as needed, until onions and peppers are soft, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in balsamic vinegar if desired, to taste. Makes about 4 cups.
Copyright © Lorelle S Del Matto 2012

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.


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