This is the quintessential Sicilian dish, although I have heard people say it comes from bizarre places like Piedmont. The erotic, pulpy, fleshy and juicy pepper, be it red, green or yellow, comes first and foremost from this part of Italy where it was introduced from Latin America along with chocolate and coffee. Real peperoni experts claim that the very best ones are from Calabria, where indeed their texture and size verge on the obscene. But the glorious island of Sicily is rich with bright vegetable dishes like this one, many of which have the flavoursome green Sicilian olives added to make the dish inimitably Sicilian. If peperoni dishes exist in Northern Italy, then it is because they have been introduced by southern immigrants going north in search of well-paid factory work–but here under the southern sun is where the peperoni bring colour and glitter to the poorest kitchens.
Wash the peppers, cut them in half and remove all the seeds and the inner membranes. Cut them in half again – or in strips, if they seem very large – and set aside. Fry the onions in the oil until just soft, then add the tomatoes and tomato paste, and the peppers. Stir and season with salt.
When the peppers are sealed all over, sprinkle in the vinegar and add the olives. Stir well, then cook until the peppers are just cooked, not mushy. Serve hot or cold, with a main course dish or on their own.
© 1995 Valentina Harris. All rights reserved.