Turning Down the Heat


Just recently the grocery departments and shops in Tuscany have provided the unsuspecting tourist with a conundrum. What appears to be a very overlarge chili pepper, or conversely a very small type of red or green sweet pepper, is pushed in among the vegetables, and labelled “Peperoncino”. Ah! The tourist says, better consult the dictionary on this one, just to make sure.

The problem with a pocket lexicon is that the nuances of a word never seem to be fully described or interpreted. Obviously there just isn’t the space. If it contains the word ‘Peperoni’, sweet pepper, you will be on the right track but on the wrong road. This will become obvious if it also includes ‘Peperoncino’ described as a ‘hot red pepper’, more like a gargantuan version of a Chili pepper. That would be alright, except that very often the ‘Peperoncino’ you have before you is followed by the words ‘Dolce’ and ‘Friggitello’, which appears a contradiction not encountered in your pocket book. You can see that what is set before you has never been near any frying pan, and so you arrive by the tortuous route of a heated discussion on the possibility such a vegetable is a sweet pepper that can be fried or grilled. There does not seem to be a yellow variety available in Italy, and it’s likely that the green and red are only distantly related. One thing they are not is a Bell pepper, nor should they be labelled Piccante. Right on.

As they are very often packed in smart 500-gram boxes they seem a good buy – and they are when you discover what you can do with them. One thing you can just about rely upon is they will bear no palatable similarity to South American juggernauts, some of which have heat units high enough to start a bonfire on their own. Just cross your fingers, and read on, as the Italian offerings make a very nice change, providing a useful and perfect complement to both hot and cold meats.




Peperoni Dolce 500gms.

Garlic cloves x 3.

Olive Oil x 4 Tablespoons.

Honey x I Tablespoon.

Balsamic Vinegar x 2 Tablespoons.

Salt and Pepper, milled.


Trim the ends of the peperoni where a large number of seeds cluster by the stalk. Slice in half to remove remaining seeds, then in half again. Rinse well, and dry.

Peel the garlic and chop finely.

Sauté in heated olive oil for a minute, then add the chopped pepperoni.

Season conservatively, turn down the heat, and cover.

Allow to soften for ten minutes, stirring once or twice to keep the garlic free as with little liquid they will have a propensity to stick to the bottom.

Remove the lid. Add the Balsamic Vinegar and Honey.

Continue cooking gently on low until the peppers are softened.

Remove from the heat, and allow to marinade for circa 30 minutes.