During the summer, Mama let her adorable garden decide the meal of the day. She would pick whatever was in her prime and build a botanical feast around her crop. Once a week during those lazy, hot days, she made the most delicious and satisfying pepperonata, which varied a little each time, depending on how many eggplants, peppers, or tomatoes were ready. With any combination, the aroma of delicacy came out of the open windows and announced itself to the neighbors! As a second method (the dish that follows soup or pasta), she puts the hot pan right on the table, bringing out a creamy mixture of stewed basil vegetables with thick slices of crunchy calabrese bread. As an adult, you’ve given up on the daily primo and didio tradition, but this peperonata certainly won’t leave you hungry. It can also be used to garnish pasta, accompanies grilled meat, or decorate any cocktail party as an appetizer with crostini.
2-3 medium Italian eggplant, washed and chopped like French fries
2 bell peppers, washed and sliced
Fresh hot pepper, sliced to taste (optional)
3-4 fresh tomatoes, peeled and mashed (replace with a small can of imported Italian tomatoes)
2 sprigs fresh basil
6-8 tbsp. Nardini Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Divided
1 tbsp. dried seasoning
salt to taste
Heat half the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. If using cast iron, heat the skillet for 10 minutes before adding the oil. Add the eggplant slices and a little salt and fry until golden, soft and fully cooked, 10 minutes, stirring constantly. It may be helpful to add a little water and cover it with a lid for steam. Lift from skillet. Sit aside.
In the same skillet, add the remaining amount of oil and pepper. Fry until golden, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil and oregano and season with salt. Continue cooking for another 10 minutes.
Add the cooked eggplant and juices to the pepper mixture. Simmer over low heat for a few minutes until thick and creamy. Adjust spices.
Serve hot or at room temperature with a little extra virgin olive oil.
Other Service Suggestions
As an appetite suppressant: Grilled slices of calabrese bread. Rub a fresh garlic clove on one side and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Served with pepperonata.
Entry: Cook pasta according to package. Once cooked, add the drained pasta to the skillet along with the simmered pepperonata. Add a little pasta water and stir until thick and creamy. Serve hot with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
advice: To peel a tomato, wash and cut a small “X” at the bottom and pierce the skin. Put in a pot of hot water for one minute. Remove with a perforated spoon and place in an ice water bath. Once cool enough to handle, peel the tomatoes, as the peel will slide off easily.
When fresh garden ingredients are available, make large batches of pepperonata and freeze in appropriate portions to enjoy the taste of summer in winter.
Marisa Mariella is a resident of Stony Creek and host of “Marisa’s Easy Kitchen” on cable 14. Follow Marisa Mariella on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and at marisamariella.com.