Walk around any small Abruzzo village in September when the children are back at school and you will see all sorts of peppers being worked. Garlands of vivid red chilli peppers (peperoncini) strung on hooks adorning traditional black letterboxes at the front of houses, or high on balconies under eaves overlooking newly washed sheets blowing dry with fresh autumn breezes.
Your Own Little Kick
Slowly drying in the sun, they wait to be snipped into extra virgin olive oil and presented as a condiment at the table, ever so politely allowing you to create your own little kick from primo through to your meat course.
They are used crushed in ventricina, Teramana’s jars of soft pork spread traditionally served on warm bruschetta, which the shepherds from the region have always enjoyed for its portability, and more famously Vasto’s Ventricina, the piquant orange, rosemary and fennel hand-made salami treasured around the globe.
For those that enjoy nothing better than the hot spicy pasta dish Bucatini all’Amatriciana, who knew that this was an Abruzzese dish? Amatrice was part of Abruzzo until it was moved into Lazio by Mussolini as he redrew Italy’s provinces. Our advice: never accept anything served with bacon as the real deal for Pasta al’Amatriciana, it should be made with chopped Guanciale, the seductive air-cured pig cheek of Amatrice that has been rubbed with a magical blend of salt, dried peperoncini flakes and bay leaves. Our spicing tips are to use Guanciale instead of pancetta next time you make Spaghetti Carbonara, or try frying a whole sweet peperoncino with shredded savoy cabbage and a healthy sprinkle of white wine for ‘fajoie’, Abruzzo’s tasty take on Sauerkraut that is superb served with sausages.
Spicily naughty but nicely tangy, the most popular way of preserving cherry chilli peppers in Abruzzo is to pickle them by a short 5 minute dip in wine vinegar and then stuff with tuna, breadcrumbs and capers and kept sotto olio (under oil) ready for a zingy antipasti midwinter treat.
Nonnas’ Favourites – Abruzzo’s Heirloom Peppers
If you are lucky as you walk around those small villages whether coast or mountain you may just be enticed by the aroma of red peppers being roasted on open grills by groups of grandmothers.
Our large heirloom version of cornetto peppers are sweet and juicy which are either kept whole for stuffing (see our recipe) , perfect with their large and long tapered cavities, or sliced and kept in herb-flavoured olive oil ready to be added to pasta sauces and meat dishes, bruschetta and added to pizza.
Learn the traditional Italian ways of cooking with red peppers and chilies and how to make Ventricina as part of a cookery holiday with Italia Sweet Italia