Peperoni in agrodolce + insalata di rinforzo – sour sweet peppers and a Neapolitan cauliflower salad

I am a sucker for sottolii and sottaceto, i.e. all things (generally vegetarian ) preserved in vinegar or oil :  with a hunk of bread & some cheese  I could easily lunch on them every day.
These sour sweet peppers are amongst my favourites: quick and easy, not too sharp, excellent to eat and beautiful to look at.  The brine is light and aromatic because it is made with vinegar and white whine, olive oil, spices and touch of sugar. I never bother to can them: I keep them in the fridge and use them in two to three weeks. Summer and early Autumn, when peppers are at their best, would be the ideal time to make these, but this recipe works also with the the rather dull Dutch peppers I find here all year round – somehow, to open the fridge and find a jar of these glowing peppers, in the height of winter, cheers me up.
The recipe comes from a little book of mine, published many years ago now, called Pausa Pranzo: come stare lontani dai bar e vivere felici (Lunch Break: how to stay away from coffee bars and be happy) – all about lunch break food/bento box style light lunches

Peperoni in agrodolce – sour sweet peppers

1 kg mixed yellow, red and orange peppers, washed and cut into large wedges  200 ml white wine (nothing fancy, of course); dry white vermouth can be used too
200 ml white wine vinegar
1 espresso cup of extravergin olive oil
100 g sugar
a pinch of salt
1 fresh bay leaf, 1 fresh sage leaf, 1 sprig of rosemary, a couple of sprigs of thyme
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and  lightly mashed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Mix the wine, vinegar oil, sugar, salt, herbs, garlic and pepper corns in a heavy saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer, covered for 5 minutes.
Add the cut up peppers, and cook on high heat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool them down without removing the lid: I tend to make them in the evening so that they are ready by the morning.
Pour into a jar and refrigerate.

Few slivers of these peppers can transform the simplest  mixed green salad into something much more appetising and they star in the beautiful Neapolitan cauliflower salad, called insalata di rinforzo , which literally means “re-inforced salad”:  the idea being that the basic cauliflower salad is then re-inforced (and made tastier) by adding other bits, pickles, olives, sun dried tomatoes ecc…This salad is traditionally prepared for Christmas, but I think it is too good to limit it to that time of the year

Insalata di rinforzo – Neapolitan cauliflower and pickle salad

Steam some cauliflower florets until al dente and lay them on a kitchen cloth – they will soften further  as they could down. When they feel drier but still hot, pace them in a large platter and dress them liberally with extra virgin olive oil, a little white wine vinegar and some salt. It is important to dress the vegetables whilst still hot: the flavour is really thus amplified.
Let them cool down completely. Add stoned green and black olives, slivers of sun dried tomatoes, slivers of the above sour sweet pepper, capers. few cut up cornichons and some of these gorgeous quickly pickled red onions from Deborah Madison’s The Greens Cook book.
Finish off  the salad with chopped parsley and chopped chives.
Let it rest at room temperature for an hour or so, to give all the ingredients a change to get to know each other well.

As you can see in one of the pictures, I have also used the peppers to decorate some old fashioned stuffed eggs (one of my favourite party food)

The Cauliflower salad picture is from my restaurant days, but I still make it the same way






5 thoughts on “Peperoni in agrodolce + insalata di rinforzo – sour sweet peppers and a Neapolitan cauliflower salad

  1. My sister goes wild for anything sott’aceto. I’m sure she’d love this recipe. That cauliflower salad looks fantastic—in fact it looks a lot like mine… 😉


  2. ciao david
    thanks, that’s nice of u… it is a lovely recipe, isn’t? I think I sort of devised the agrodolce from an old Hazan recipe (from Marcella cucina – the chicken in carpione I think…) and other italian sources. I just love these peppers.pls let me know if u need some translation: the Italian I used in that book is on the very, very colloquial style often (even if the recipes themselves are, mostly, in standard Italian)

    shame on a good cook as u are not to take, at least occasionally, a good packet lunch to work… u know, the book was really born out of me taking a bento box to my then office and have it on a bench in a local park (the original title was indeed “eating on a bench… “, then ti was dished by the publisher) ; especially now that spring is coming, there are no excuses
    ps do try the onion marmalade and the Escoffier’s pepper chutney: truly special


  3. I actually made the peperoni in agrodolce after I got your book in the mail. It’s nice to have this version in English, though, as well as the cauliflower salad. I served the peperoni as part of an antipasto platter and they were very popular!

    Your book is wonderful… I wish my Italian was a fraction as good a strong your English. The funny thing is that I never bring my lunch to work… I should, and I should cook my way through the book!

    Have a great weekend,


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