I peperoni imbottiti alla napoletana (Neapolitan-style stuffed peppers)

“Blessed be the stuffed peppers! what a clever thing they are!…What are they made of? Not much: peppers, bread, a couple of aubergines cooked ‘fungitiello‘ style (i.e. deep fried),  a handful of capers and Gaeta black olives, some anchovies and, let’s not forget, a pinch of oregano and parsley, a clove of garlic and few bits of tomatoes. And from these humble ingredients, a masterpiece is born: one of those dishes that makes your mouth water just thinking about them.
Let’s be clear though: the stuffed pepper must be prepared properly, otherwise, if the bread is mushy, if the aubergines were not fried right, if the peppers were not well roasted, if, last, the ratio of stuffing to pepper is not exact, you will only end up with a pappy, boring, inedible concoction.

It is preferable to eat the stuffed pepper cold, maybe the following day after cooking it: the flavours will have had the time to merge and, at the same time, to stand out. As you savour it, you must be able to taste the anchovy in one mouthful and the aubergine the next; you must be able to taste the oregano, the caper, the olive and you will  appreciate the flavour coming from  the different ingredients merging with the pepper’s juices.”

This is how Jeanne Carola Francesconi, who wrote the definitive book on Neapolitan cooking, describes this splendid summer dish. If you read Italian, do get (preferably) the first edition of the book – a real treasure. There are many versions of stuffed peppers, but I would like to give you Francesconi’s iconic recipe: a somewhat laborious recipe, but a splendid one.
These are the ingredients as listed by Francesconi, the wording of the recipe is my own. See also my comments in the notes.

I peperoni ripieni alla napoletana di Jeanne Carola Francesconi – Jeanne Carola Francesconi’s stuffed peppers Neapolitan style

12 large peppers
aubergines  1.25kg  cubed small
Capers 50g, rinsed
Black olives from Gaeta 100g, stoned
anchovies 100g, either salted or in oil, boned if necessary, well rinsed
1 clove of garlic, grated
1 clove of garlic, whole
dry oregano, to taste
a bunch of parsley, finely chopped
breadcrumbs, 3 heaped tablespoons of Italian style breadcrumbs, i.e. lightly toasted and finely grated
extra virgin olive oil
2 tomatoes, cut up in pieces (they do not need to be peeled, I used a handful of  baby plum tomatoes)
salt and pepper

First you must skin the peppers. Francesconi suggests either frying them in a little oil, over high heat, or roasting them in the hottest possible oven. I prefer to roast them over a high flame on the stove, using a metallic mesh, turning them often. Whatever method you choose, it is important not to overcook them: the aim here is to char the skin so that it can be removed. If you wait until the peppers are uniformly and completely  charred, they will be overdone and too soft. Cool them and remove the skin.
In order to stuff them, you can now either slice the top off each pepper or create a slit in the main body. In either case, remove the pips.

Next you have to prepare the aubergines. Francesconi goes all traditional of course and she fries hers in plenty of oil. If you do so, salt the aubergines beforehand and let them steep for at least half an hour: Francesconi does not say this, but it makes the difference because salted, rinsed, squeezed and dried aubergines soak up less oil when fried. I prefer to roast them in a medium-hot oven (180 C),  in an aluminium lined tray, drizzling them with oil, mixing and moving them around them a couple of time (no pre-salting is necessary). Cool them.

Fry the whole clove of garlic in 50g of oil and remove it when it is lightly golden; add the breadcrumbs and let them take some colour and flavour. Add the olives, capers, tomatoes, oregano, parsley, the grated garlic and a little black pepper. Cook on very low heat for a few minutes only and remove from the heat and add the anchovies and the chopped parsley. Check for salt.
Divide the stuffing into 12 portions and stuff the peppers.
Place them in a large, oiled dish in  a single layer, drizzle with oil and bake in a medium oven for 30-45 minutes.
Eat them at room temperature. They are even better the following day

notes:
Note how little garlic is used: this is very italian
I like to place some bits of tomatoes in between peppers and to shower the dish with breadcrumbs before baking

19 thoughts on “I peperoni imbottiti alla napoletana (Neapolitan-style stuffed peppers)

  1. Ciao Stefano, these look great! Skinning the peppers without overcooking them will be a challenge for me. I use the oven and usually end up with either skin that won’t come loose or a skin that comes off easily on very soft peppers. I really like the filling and will have to try this.

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  2. Fantastic, it will be like eating a vegetable garden stuffed in a pepper. I always learn from your post and this one has taught me to eat this pepper the next day at room temp. This I will try.

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    1. 🙂 thanks… I do think that a lot of dishes benefit from an overbite rest: minestrone, beef stew, pulses in general, ratatouille and peperonata ecc…. I am kind of obsessed by this, to the point that I myself would not eat a, let’s say, ratatouille or caponata, freshly made 🙂

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  3. I’m a pretty lazy cook so I don’t usually peel peppers (except, of course, when roasting them) or, for that matter, tomatoes. But I’m sure it does improve the dish considerably. Will give it a go one of these days, when I’m feeling particularly energetic… 😉

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    1. I once met an Italian lady whose husband refused to touch any tomatoe unless it was peeled, even for salads! on eggplant: I also like them steamed, something I learnt not many yrs ago (in fact I was playing with the idea of try and make an eggplant parmigiana using slabs of steamed eggplants, I am curious to see the result)

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        1. I’ve had great steamed eggplant at Piazza Duomo, a three Michelin star restaurant in Alba and one of my favorites (also on the world’s 50 best restaurants) that we discovered before it became as famous. That was a pink and round eggplant with white flesh. The texture was divine, very tender.

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          1. ah ah!! thanks… I will try and report. I noticed they need to steam and rest on a cloth to loose some moist (envious of all yr 3 michelin star eating around Italy)

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  4. I am glad to read that you roast the eggplant – much healthier. I also am intrigued that peppers are peeled! This would make all the difference yet this is the first time I have heard of anyone doing this. Do you think she used sweet bell peppers or green ones for her original recipe? I would tend te use the red or yellow, but my uncle’s family always used green. I look forward to trying this, Stefano! Hope all is well with you both. D

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    1. on peeling peppers: one of Hazan’s mantra: peel the peppers! peel the peppers! I cannot stand peppers’ skin and I always, always peel it, even when we had the restaurant and that meant 3 people peeling boxes of peppers.
      green peppers: I think green peppers (unless they are the little friarielli ones) are hardly used in most italian cooking… perhaps because they are associated (wrongly or justly) with “unripe”…?? (I use one green pepper when I make peperonata, because I like the differente flavour it delivers…less sweet.. maybe it is all in my head?)- we are fine thanks, super hot here.. even if the temperature has now gone down: glorious summer here in London and great for cherries and raspberries

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      1. Ciao Stef, green peppers are in fact unripe. If left on the plant, they will go on to become red. I think like an Italian when it comes to cooking and hardly use them – except for color or variation in dishes like peperonata.

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        1. thanks.. I sort of suspected that.. but I am no gardener…I agree with use: I always add, if I can, a green pepper to my peperonata: colour and a different, more astringent note (but then I love peperonata in any shape or form)

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