Roasted Red Peppers is one of those recipes that is so simple I’m not sure it can even qualify as a “recipe” per se. But it is a skill that is fundamental to Italian cuisine and therefore worth sharing.
American food writer Laurie Colwin wrote a wonderful essay on the virtues of the red pepper and one of the things she noted is the way roasting changes the vegetable’s flavor. The natural sweetness intensifies and you end up with a smoky taste and a silky texture.
In Roman antipasti, or appetizers, roasted vegetables are a standard. You can eat roasted red peppers draped over toasted bread, paired with mozzarella on top of a salad, or throw them in to a pasta dish to make it more interesting.
You can grill the peppers if it’s summer but in the winter there are two options: roasting over a flame and roasting in the oven. Though roasting in the oven takes significantly longer in total, it’s less hands-on time.
In Italy, and even abroad, it is not difficult to find roasted red peppers jarred in olive oil. The advantage of roasting them on your own, besides a fresher taste and firmer texture, is the ability to control the amount of oil. I find that drowning the peppers in oil ends up detracting from their bright, natural taste.
Roasted Red Peppers
-Firm, ripe red peppers
-Salt and Pepper
-Minced garlic (optional)
- Spear the pepper on a long metal skewer or kebab. Roast the pepper over a gas burner or flame, rotating so that all sides become black. Be careful and if the pepper catches on fire, as it inevitably will, just blow the flames out.
- Once the pepper is blackened, place it in a paper bag and leave it for 10 minutes.
- Peel and discard the charred skin.
- Slice the pepper into thin strips, place in a dish and drizzle with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and garlic, if desired. Leave to macerate for a couple hours.
- Cut out and discard the peppers’ stems. Slice them open and trim off any white inside. Rinse off any remaining seeds and pat the peppers dry.
- Place the peppers flat, innards facing down, in an oiled pan (see photo). Drizzle with olive oil and place in an oven turned to “Broil” or the highest temperature. Check on the peppers constantly and take out of the oven once the skins are uniformly blackened. This can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the oven.
- Continue with Steps 2-4 from Procedure 1.