Garlic (a lot of it), oil and anchovies: three ingredients make one of the most delicious sauces in the world. The...
3 mouth-watering recipes with peperoni cruschi
Today we are going to be making three recipes with Peperoni cruschi crispy, dried bell peppers; they are a specialty from the region Basilicata and they obtained the Protected Geographical Indication label in 1996.
They historically originated in the area of Senise, in the province of Potenza, and then they luckily spread all over the country. They have a unique colour and scent, as well as a truly exceptional flavour.
They are small and have a thin skin that is bright red. They are, however, not spicy at all – quite the contrary. These crunchy Peperoni cruschi bell peppers actually have a sweet flavour.
They are tied in long braids that can reach 2m in length, and are left hanging from the balconies in Basilicata during the summer time, drying in the sun and wind. Once they have dried, they can be kept for a long time; they can be eaten as they are, or they can be fried or heated in the oven.
They are the most characteristic side dish from Basilicata, especially when they are paired with potatoes. They are also a must in traditional dishes, as well as in innovative aperitifs, platters and snacks. Let’s take a look at some recipe ideas.
Bruschetta with turnip greens, anchovy fillets and peperoni cruschi
This bruschetta is a celebration of Southern Italian food. The cherry on top would be finding the real bread from Matera - another PGI product, and using it for this recipe.
Steam the turnip greens in salted, boiling water for roughly 5 to 6 minutes, just to soften them up. Drain them and pan-sear them together with some oil, garlic and red hot chilli pepper for around ten minutes on medium heat.
In the meantime, roast some bread on the grill or in the oven, until it becomes crunchy. Now it’s time to assemble the ingredients: bread, turnip greens, one anchovy fillet for each bruschetta and a copious amount of crumbled peperoni cruschi bell peppers; top it off with a thread of high-quality, extra virgin olive oil.
The flavour of this dish is sapid, intense, deep and complex - the signature flavour of Southern Italy. The crunchy bread and dried bell peppers and the soft turnip greens and anchovy fillets create absolutely incredible contrasting textures.
Strascinati pasta with Canestrato di Moliterno cheese, bread crumbs and peperoni cruschi
After the starter, let’s move on to a pasta dish celebrating Basilicata’s best specialties.
Strascinati is the most traditional fresh pasta from Basilicata. This pasta is never made with eggs and it could vaguely resemble the more famous Orecchiette from Bari, but it is actually bigger and flatter. It is only made by hand, by dragging the dough on a floured surface, so that the lower side of the dough becomes completely smooth and the inner side – the one coming into contact with the fingers - stays coarse and porous. Their name Strascinati, meaning the dragged ones, is a reference to the preparation technique.
PGI Canestrato di Moliterno is an exceptional, hard Pecorino cheese. Only whole milk from ewes and goats reared in the wild is used to make this cheese. It has an intense flavour that becomes spicier as ageing progresses. For this dish, it would be ideal to pick an aged cheese that is best suited for grating.
While the water is boiling, fry the bread crumbs. Be careful with oil: only use a very small amount and put the bread crumbs in when the oil is already hot. When the bread crumbs are golden, take them out to drain and put them on blotting paper.
Drain the pasta and sauté it for one minute in hot oil; then turn off the heat, add the fried bread crumbs, crumbled peperoni cruschi dried bell peppers and a copious amount of grated Canestrato di Moliterno cheese. Plate the dish and enjoy.
Potatoes and peperoni cruschi
The signature side dish of Basilicata. Steam the potatoes for around twenty minutes. When they are ready, slice them up and pan-sear them in some oil. They should get crunchy and golden.
Add the crumbled peperoni cruschi and that’s it. It is a very rustic dish; if you wish to plate this dish in an elegant way, stack alternating layers of potatoes and whole peperoni cruschi on top of each other.
For a lighter version of these recipes, replace fried peperoni cruschi with baked peperoni cruschi. It is not what the original recipe states, but it definitely saves some oil and calories.
These are my favourite recipes with peperoni cruschi dried bell peppers, based on tradition and local ingredients. Flavour combinations are, as usual, endless. The only thing to do is trying out, experimenting, tasting, trying again and tasting once again. I’m sure everyone will enjoy the process.