I want to share this simple but delicious Italian roasted peppers recipe, a classic in ‘British’ home-cooking history, because I have turned to it more than any other recipe I know of.
Here’s why I find it so useful, and why I think you should memorize this recipe for your own ‘go-to’ collection:
- It’s delicious – sweet, charred pepper. Olive oil infused with the puttanesca-inspired flavours of garlic, caper, chilli and anchovy…what’s not to like?
- It’s quick – you only needs 10 mins of easy prep to create something delicious
- It’s simple – you never have to look the recipe up. It’s easy enough to memorize and robust enough to survive skipping ingredients/getting quantities wrong.
- It’s extremely versatile – I include lots of suggestions in the article, but these Italian roasted peppers can be used as an appetizer, an ingredient in a larger dish, or they can be served alongside something that you don’t feel is enough on its own, turning it into a satisfying main meal. They also keep in the fridge for incredible flavour on demand.
You can jump straight to the recipe using the button below and I’ll show you how to make these Italian roasted peppers.
`Or, if you would like to read more, this article will guide you through:
- Where is this Italian roasted peppers recipe from? (I think it’s actually reasonably significant in the context of UK home cooking history…)
- Why does it taste so good?
- What you can serve alongside these Italian roasted peppers with anchovies
- How to make these peppers vegetarian/vegan
Where is this Italian Roasted Peppers Recipe recipe from?
First up, I have to admit that this Italian roasted peppers recipe is unlikely to be considered ‘authentic Italian’. In fact, I was first introduced to it by none other than Delia Smith – someone associated more with Norwich than Napoli.
But before Italian purism stops you reading any further, let me sell it to you!
Not only do I think that this Italian roasted peppers recipe is a small landmark in the history of UK home cooking, but also most importantly (and for reasons I explain in this post), it is a delicious recipe that is more than the sum of its parts.
Delia Smith and Elizabeth Day – the spiritual Mother and Grandmother of UK home cooking
Although I first saw these Italian roasted peppers with anchovies in Delia Smith’s 1995 ‘Summer Recipe Collection’ book (a ‘classic’ to me, given that I was born 2 years before it was published), a little digging reveals that an identical recipe was first published in Elizabeth Day’s book ‘Italian Food’, all the way back in 1954!
For those of you not from the UK, Delia Smith is arguably a British cultural icon – essentially the UK version of Martha Stewart (i.e. a stalwart of home-cooking).
Elizabeth Day however is somebody entirely more significant. Through her early publications, Day effectively introduced the UK mainstream to reasonably authentic food from all around the Mediterranean. This included ‘exotic’ Mediterranean ingredients (garlic would you believe!) and to ‘radical’ new cooking methods (think roasting vegetables rather than simply boiling them). For this reason, she is often referenced as a huge influence in UK food history.
In classic British way, the recipes from these books (more so Delia’s) can sometimes take inspiration from other cuisines without being ‘constrained’ by notions of absolute authenticity.
However, I like to take these books for what they are – classics that aimed to broaden public food knowledge. Do this and you will find that both are filled with very accessible and useful recipes, many of which are worth incorporating into your repertoire.
I think that this Italian roasted peppers recipe is the epitome of what is good about these classic British books – the fact I have made them more times than I can remember is testament to that! A combination of classic Italian ingredients, roasted together to make a beatiful thing – you can’t really complain.
Fill up these peppers with ingredients of your choice and you are bound to get something nice.
Over the years I have tweaked Delia Smith’s roasted peppers to my liking by adding a couple of ingredients that I think go particularly well – fresh chilli and capers. The subtle chilli heat that is infused into the olive oil is absolutely necessary in my opinion. Also, these new additions are natural partners to the garlic and anchovy already present, replicating the flavours you would find in the immortal Italian pasta dish puttanesca (minus the olives!).
Why does it taste so good?
Over the many years of using and tweaking this recipe, I have decided that there are two things that make these Italian roasted peppers with anchovies so good:
- 1 – The sweetness of the roasted pepper – I think almost all veg benefit from roasting (thanks again go to Elizabeth Day for first suggesting we British stop boiling every vegetable we cook). For peppers this is particularly true – sweet flesh and charred bits around the edges give a depth of flavour that are hard to replicate.
- 2 – The oil, the oil, the oil… – it might seem like you are adding a lot of olive oil to each pepper, but don’t hold back! This oil gently infuses with all of the delicious ingredients roasting inside the pepper (the subtle heat of the chilli, perfume of the garlic and salty twang of the capers and anchovies). Once the peppers have finished cooking, this infused oil is the bit to savour, and it can add so much to any dish you are serving alongside the peppers.
The infused oil that pools inside the peppers after roasting is the bit to really savour.
How can I use these Italian roasted peppers?
The beauty of this go-to Italian roasted peppers recipe is that, if you ever have to turn the oven on for something anyway, it only takes 10 minutes of extra prep to get a tray of these beauties ready.
You can then either keep them in the fridge (they are excellent both cold or reheated) or eat them straight out the oven, because chances are they will go with whatever you are having.
I end up eating them with all sorts of things but here are some of the more common uses:
- In salads – sliced up and added to an everyday salad, their rich roasted flavour will transform your routine work lunch. Plus the infused oil acts as an amazing dressing.
- With Greek Baked Rice – this recipe is incredible on its own, but even better with the Italian roasted peppers.
- In a halloumi burger – pop one of these on top of a large slice of grilled halloumi, add a splash of tangy chilli sauce (e.g. peri-peri) and you’ll have a vegetarian burger to die for.
- As an appetizer – it would be doing an injustice to these Italian roasted peppers if I didn’t mention that they were good enough to be a course on their own. Pair them with a simple green salad, dressed with balsamic (no oil needed – you won’t get anything better than what’s inside the baked pepper!).
I like to serve these Italian roasted red peppers with this fragrant, buttery Greek baked rice dish. If you have the oven on anyway it’s so easy!
Can I make it vegetarian?
Of course! This recipe is robust enough for anyone to play around with the ingredients and quantities – it will pretty much always taste good.
Think it needs a sour hit? Add a splash of balsamic to each pepper. Don’t have any basil? Use anything else you have to hand (thyme, rosemary, parsley).
Simply omit the anchovies and you have a gluten-free and vegan appetizer / ingredient / side.
Cooking & Ingredient Notes
Cutting the peppers
This Italian Roasted peppers recipe is incredibly simple and flexible. However, there is one important point to bear in mind when preparing – you want the pepper halves to remain completely intact so that they hold the oil whilst roasting. If you accidentally cut a hole in one the oil will slowly leak out onto the baking tray, which would be a shame because that infused oil is the best bit!
Cut the peppers lengthways down the middle of the stalk. Then remove the pith and seeds and you should have something that looks like this.
What Colour Peppers are best?
I think that it is best to use red peppers/capsicums when making these Italian Roasted peppers. Orange and yellow are perfectly good too.
However, the green are not quite as good – they don’t quite have the same sweetness when roasted and can even have a slight bitterness.
‘Puttanesca Peppers’ – my go-to Italian roasted peppers recipe
- 3 large bell peppers any colour but green
- 6 cherry tomatoes
- 6 basil leaves
- 6 anchovy fillets
- 2 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
- 2 birdseye chillies* thinly sliced
- A small handful of capers
- 6 tbsp (90 ml) olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200℃/gas mark 6/180℃ fan
- Slice the peppers in half lengthways straight through the central green stem, leaving two halves, each with a portion of the stem. Using a small knife, carefully remove any white pith and seeds without piercing or cutting the pepper itself (you want the pepper halves to be intact so that they hold the oil). For guidance, see the photo my prepared pepper half in
- Place the pepper halves openside up in a single layer on a baking
tray and divide the remaining ingredients equally between the pepper cavities. Per pepper = 1 anchovy fillet, 1 basil leaf, a few slices of garlic and chilli, a few capers, 1 tablespoon (15ml) of olive oil and a crack of black pepper.
- Place the peppers in the pre-heated oven and roast for 35-45 minutes, or until soft and slightly charred around the edges.
- The peppers can be eaten straight away or kept covered in the fridge for up to a week.