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Peperoni

Peppers are natives of the New World that the Spaniards brought home with them from their voyages of discovery. We're fortunate that they did; while the tomato is perhaps the vegetable (fruit, actually) that people most associate with Italian cooking, it would be dull and dreary without peppers, the hot variety to liven things up (they're used extensively in the South, especially Puglia and Calabria), and the sweeter bell variety almost everywhere.

In selecting bell peppers, you should pick ones that are firm and feel solid. Don't buy peppers that feel soft, look wrinkled, or have obvious spots and such on them -- they're probably old. In terms of color, bell peppers are all green when young, becoming red, yellow, purple, or other colors as they ripen.

Bull's horn peppers, from PiemonteTo prepare a bell pepper, cut around the stem, which you may want to keep to use as a cap, shake out the seeds and discard them, and peel away the white part of the ribs using a paring knife (insert it into the hole if you're keeping the peppers whole, or after you have cut them into strips if you're cutting them into strips). Even though bell peppers are nominally sweet, their ribs can pack a fiery wallop, so be careful to wash you hands well with soap before you touch anything else (e.g. your eyes) once you are done cutting them. If the recipe you are following suggests you peel your peppers, put them under a broiler, turning them often, until they blister, then scrape away the skins (if you've already cut them into strips broil them skin side up).

Incidentally, the Italian for bell pepper is peperone, which becomes peperoni in the plural. Hot peppers are called peperoncini (little peppers) in standard Italian, though they take on a host of names in various dialects (e.g. zenzero, which actually means ginger, in Tuscany). The spicy sausage that Americans know as pepperoni is called salamino piccante, and is quite common, especially in the South.

A Selection of the Recipes with Peppers On Site:

Antipasti (Some of Which Will Be Nice Sides Too)

Primi: First Courses

Secondi: Main Courses

Contorni: Sides

Peperoni Imbottiti: Stuffed Bell Peppers

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