This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.
Peperonata is an Italian dish of stewed sweet bell peppers and onions with tomatoes, garlic, and fresh basil. Serve these silky peppers and onions warm or cold, as a condiment or side dish, tossed with cooked pasta, or simply spoon it over crusty bread.
What is Peperonata?
Peperonata is a simple stew made with sweet bell peppers, onions, garlic, crushed tomatoes, and fresh basil. The vegetables are sauteed in extra virgin olive oil until soft, tender, and silky.
The name peperonata is derived from the word peperone which means sweet pepper in Italian. Throughout Italy there are many variations of peperonata, all based on the availability of ingredients in the region. Some variations add oregano instead of basil, others leave the garlic out, add potatoes, and still others add vinegar, or briny ingredients such as capers or olives.
My husband Jack grew up eating peperonata, without knowing the official Italian name. This is one of those recipes that just about every Italian family has served at one time or another, in one way or another, each putting their own delicious spin on it.
Why you’ll love Peperonata
- The delicious flavors and luscious texture of the stewed peppers, onions, and tomatoes are simply divine!
- It’s a versatile dish to keep on hand in the refrigerator – in fact, we think the flavors improve after it sits for a few days.
- This is a great way to cook with bell peppers if you happen to have a lot on hand.
- There are so many ways to enjoy this dish: Serve as a condiment with burgers, spoon it over toasted crusty bread, fry it up with eggs for breakfast, or simply serve peperonata as a delicious side dish with steak, chicken, or pork.
When shopping for the bell peppers for this recipe, chose large, thick-walled heavy peppers. Avoid the bell peppers marked as ‘field peppers’ – these are thinner walled peppers best suited for salads.
Key Ingredients & Substitutions
- Bell Peppers – These are the star of the show. Buy a mix of sweet red, yellow, and orange bell peppers. (See Chef’s Tip above.) You may be tempted to include green bell peppers in this dish, but they would add a stronger, pungent flavor – so for that reason, they are typically not used in peperonata. You can slice the peppers in very thin or thicker slices – your choice.
- Olive Oil – Choose a good-quality extra virgin olive oil for this recipe.
- Onions – Yellow onions are best for this dish, but sweet or red onions could also be used. Avoid using white onions and they have a sharper flavor that won’t meld as well with the sweet peppers.
- Garlic – Use fresh garlic. In this dish the garlic is sliced, not chopped or minced so avoid the jarred variety.
- Tomatoes – Any crushed or pureed canned tomatoes will work in this recipe. You can also use fresh tomatoes, but you’ll want to peel, seed and puree them before adding to this dish.
- Fresh Basil – Sorry, dry basil just will not work for this recipe – you want the fresh flavors of fresh basil.
- Kosher salt and Black pepper
- Vinegar – This is an optional ingredient to be drizzled on after cooking the peperonata. You can add a splash of balsamic or red wine vinegar to cut through some of the richness if you wish. (Note: We did not to add this to the recipe as shown in our photos, in part because Jack never added it in his family’s recipe, plus we wanted the deep rich flavors and colors of the peppers and onions to shine through.) You can, of course, drizzle some on as you serve the peperonata or stir some into the leftovers.
- Bread – Chose a crusty, dense Italian bread for serving. Cut thick slices and grill with some of the olive oil before serving
Special Tools Needed
- A very large skillet or a Dutch oven. (Ours was a 7-quart skillet.)
- Cutting board and knife
How do I make Peperonata?
- Cook onions in olive oil, then add garlic and cook longer.
- Add sliced peppers and cook.
- Add tomato and basil, then and simmer.
- Season with salt and pepper once the peperonata is fully cooked.
- Serve over grilled Italian bread slices as shown.
Tips & Tricks
Don’t add salt while you cook the peppers and onions – the vegetables will release water if you do. Instead, season after they are fully cooked to your desired tenderness.
- Peperonata can be used in many ways. Keep some in the refrigerator and serve over cooked burgers, with grilled chicken, steak or pork chops. One of our favorites is served over cooked eggs in the morning for breakfast.
- Drizzle either balsamic or red wine vinegar over each served portion if you’d like.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I make Peperonata ahead of time? Yes, this actually improves after sitting for a day
- How do I store leftovers? Store refrigerated for up to four days
- How do I reheat leftovers? Reheat gently in a saute pan or microwave
- Can I freeze? No, we do not recommend freezing this dish as the vegetables will soften and get mushy after thawing.
Click here for more delicious Italian Recipes!
1 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 pounds yellow onion, sliced into thick strips with the grain of the onion
1/4 cup fresh garlic slices (on a scale, about 1 1/2 ounces), about 6 large cloves
5 pounds (about 9-10) sweet bell peppers (yellow, red and orange), cut into large thick strips
1 1/4 cups canned pureed or crushed tomatoes
12 large fresh basil leaves, torn
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf dense type Italian bread, cut on the bias into thick slices
(Optional) Balsamic or red wine vinegar, to drizzle over portions
- Set aside four tablespoons of the olive oil for grilling the bread.
- In a very large pot or Dutch oven (ours was 7-quart), place one-half cup of the olive oil over medium high heat. Once hot, add the onions and cook and stir five minutes.
- Add garlic and cook one more minute.
- Add bell peppers and remaining quarter cup of olive oil and stir and toss until the peppers are all coated in oil.
- Lower heat to medium and cook the peppers for 20 minutes, stirring often.
- Add pureed tomato and fresh basil leaves and cook on medium low for about 30 minutes or until peppers are soft but still have some chew, gently stirring occasionally. The texture of the cooked peppers is a personal preference. Martha, for example, likes her peppers soft and Jack likes them a bit firm. Both ways are right.
- Remove from heat and add salt and pepper and stir. Taste, then season further if needed.
- While Peperonata is cooking, slice the bread into thick slices, brush both sides with the reserved olive oil and grill in a hot grill pan on both sides.
- To serve, place a grilled piece of bread on a plate and top with a healthy portion of the Peperonata.
- Drizzle on the vinegar as an optional ingredient.
Last Step! Please leave a review and rating letting us know how you liked this recipe! This helps our business thrive & continue providing free recipes.