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Peperonata ~ Italian Sautéed Bell Peppers with Olives and Capers

Beautiful bowl of Italian peperonata in white bowl with black rim over green towel over white plate with basil garnish.
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Peperonata is a colorful combination of bell peppers slowly caramelized with garlic and olive oil, then finished with capers, olives and a splash of red wine vinegar. It’s typically served as one of many antipasti during a traditional Sicilian meal, often with rustic, crusty bread or as a condiment to grill meats and fish.

Beautiful bowl of Italian sautéed bell peppers with capers and olives in white bowl with black rim over green towel.

What is Peperonata?

Peperonata is a popular Italian summer recipe of sautéed bell peppers with garlic, olives, capers and vinegar. Its name is derived from the Italian word for bell peppers (its main ingredient), peperone. In southern Italy, where this dish originated, peppers thrive under the warm Mediterranean sun, producing some of the best-tasting varieties.

In this recipe, peppers are sliced and slowly cooked over medium low heat in extra virgin olive oil until they are tender with a velvety sheen. Then, they’re combined with briny, pungent capers and olives then anointed with some wine vinegar to round out its taste. A celebration of flavors and aromas!

Like many Italian classics, there are different versions of peperonata throughout Italy. I learned the one I’ve presented here from a fantastic British chef and cooking instructor years ago during a culinary excursion in Sicily. It’s fairly basic and allows the beautiful flavors of its few ingredients to really shine. Some compare it to a classic Sicilian caponata, but it lacks the extra sweetness of agrodolce (i.e., sweet and sour) present in that recipe.

Many versions of this dish are more akin to a pepper stew with peppers and onions braised in tomato sauce. I love making that as well! But, I consider this version without tomatoes a favorite and incredibly versatile. It’s become my go-to to serve with Italian pork sandwiches, as part of an abundant antipasto platter (along with these baked artichoke hearts) or in the summer with grilled vegetables, meats and fish, when locally grown peppers are especially sweet and in abbondanza. Bring it to your next cookout for something different­–it will surely get some oohs and aahs and be unforgettable!

Beautiful bowl of Italian peperonata in white bowl with black rim over green towel over white plate with basil garnish.

Ingredients for Peperonata

⁠⁠ ⁠⁠To make this peperonata recipe, we’ll need:

  • Bell Peppers: Use orange, yellow or red bell peppers for the best, sweetest result. Do not use green bell peppers in this recipe as they have a completely different flavor and tend to be bitter. Select peppers that are firm and heavy for their size without bruising or wrinkled skin.
  • Garlic: Use as much or as little as you want! Do not use pre-minced bottled garlic as it has an unpleasant taste. Fresh is best!
  • Capers and Olives: You’ll find these classic Sicilian ingredients in all versions of peperonata. The brininess, saltiness and pungency of olives and capers make almost any dish better. Try to use a blend of both black and green olives. My favorites for this dish are black, oil-cured olives and green, fruity Castelvetrano olives.
  • Vinegar: A splash of red wine vinegar adds the perfect acidity to transform simple bell peppers to condiment heaven. You can also use white wine vinegar.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Since the cooking temperature is kept on medium low, I suggest using a high quality extra virgin olive oil in this recipe as it will really make a difference.

All ingredients for Sicilian peperonata on a cutting board.

How to Make Peperonata, Step-by-Step

Here are the steps to make these Sicilian peppers:

  • Prep and gather all ingredients. Then, combine the garlic and olive oil in a large skillet and heat over medium low heat until the garlic begins to brown.
    • PRO TIP: Do not use green bell peppers in this recipe. They have a completely different flavor and tend to be bitter. Use orange, yellow or red bell peppers for the best, sweetest result.

  • Add the sliced peppers and cook until the peppers wilt and caramelize. This will take about 45 to 60 minutes on medium low heat.
    • PRO TIP: Stir occasionally so that the peppers evenly caramelize. Peppers should have a velvety sheen. Do not overcook the peppers. They should be completely soft but still retain their shape.

  • About ¾ the way through cooking (after 30 minutes or so), fold in the olives, capers and black pepper.
    • PRO TIP: Be sure to keep the burner on medium low as the peppers cook. A slow sauté is important to this recipe’s success.

  • Once the peppers are caramelized and tender, add the vinegar and deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits. Toss and let the vinegar evaporate (1 to 2 minutes), then turn off the heat. Add salt to taste. That’s it!

More Southern Italian-Inspired Recipes

Finished Italian sautéed bell peppers in pan.

If you love bell peppers, also check out Homemade Roasted Peppers, Stuffed Peppers and Sausage Stuffed Cubanelle Peppers.

Serving Suggestions

Peperonata can be enjoyed in lots of ways! Some of my favorites are:

  • As a sandwich condiment. It goes especially well on pork, chicken cutlet and meatball sandwiches.
  • As an antipasto before the main meal with some rustic, crusty bread.
  • As a side or condiment to grilled or roasted meats and fish.
  • It’s also wonderful as a topping on grilled bruschetta, with or without fresh mozzarella.


Peperonata topping on an Italian roast pork sandwich.
Peperonata is a great topping for a roast pork sandwich!

TOP TIPS FOR PEPERONATA

  • Peppers: Do not use green bell peppers in this recipe as they have a completely different flavor and tend to be bitter. Use orange, yellow or red bell peppers for the best, sweetest result.
  • Heat Level: Be sure to keep the burner on medium low as the peppers cook. A slow sauté is important to this recipe’s success.
  • Texture: Do not overcook the peppers. They should be completely soft but still retain their shape.
  • Make In Advance: Like roasted peppers, you can (and should) make peperonata in advance for convenience and so that the flavors have a chance to marry together and get better as they sit.
  • Leftovers: Store cooled leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Freeze it for up to 3 months in an airtight container. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature.
  • Substitutions and Variations:
    • Sometimes, I’ll add anchovy to the pan along with the garlic for more savoriness and umami. If you’re up for this, I suggest 3 to 4 anchovy filets. The anchovy will dissolve as the garlic cooks.
    • Try this recipe with other sweet peppers like cubanelle, Jimmy Nardello or mini-sweet peppers. I keep this recipe very basic and traditional, to let the flavors of the core ingredients shine. But, you can play around with additional spices and herbs, such as fresh basil, oregano or mint.
    • Add some heat to this peperonata with a pinch (or two!) or crushed red pepper flakes added to the pan along with the garlic.
    • Some peperonata recipes call for onions. Julienne one medium yellow or red onion and add it to the pan with the peppers.

More Great Recipes to Try

I hope that you are enjoying my Italian food blog and all of my Italian recipes and Italian-American recipes!

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Beautiful bowl of Italian peperonata in white bowl with black rim over green towel over white plate with basil garnish.

Peperonata ~ Italian Sautéed Bell Peppers with Olives and Capers

Michele
Peperonata is a colorful combination of bell peppers slowly caramelized with garlic and olive oil, then finished with capers, olives and a splash of red wine vinegar. It’s typically served as one of many antipasti during a traditional Sicilian meal, often with rustic, crusty bread or as a condiment to grill meats and fish.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Appetizer, Condiment
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 servings

Equipment

Ingredients
  

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced or chopped garlic
  • 2 pounds bell peppers (red, yellow or orange), cored, seeded, ½” julienne
  • ¾ cup mixed green and black olives, pitted and sliced or rough chopped (about 6 ounces)
  • ¼ cup capers, drained
  • Pinch ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • To taste salt

Instructions
 

  • Prep and gather all ingredients according to specifications above.
    (Please see the section above in the blog post for Step-By-Step instructions with photos.)
  • Combine the garlic and olive oil in a large skillet and heat over medium low heat until the garlic begins to brown.
    2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, ¼ cup thinly sliced or chopped garlic
  • Add the sliced peppers and cook until the peppers wilt and caramelize. This will take about 45 to 60 minutes on medium low heat. Stir occasionally so that the peppers evenly caramelize. Peppers should have a velvety sheen. Do not overcook the peppers. They should be completely soft but still retain their shape.
    2 pounds bell peppers
  • About ¾ the way through cooking (after 30 minutes or so), fold in the olives, capers and black pepper.
    ¾ cup mixed green and black olives,, ¼ cup capers,, Pinch ground black pepper
  • Once the peppers are caramelized and tender, add the vinegar and deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits.
    ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • Toss and let the vinegar evaporate (1 to 2 minutes), then turn off the heat. Add salt to taste.
    To taste salt
  • Enjoy peperonata as an appetizer with crusty bread, as a condiment on any number of sandwiches, with pasta or your favorite grilled or roasted protein. It’s a great way to use the summer’s bounty of fresh vegetables.

Notes

  • This recipe makes approximately 3/3½ cups peperonata. I figured about ½ cup serving per person. Adjust the batch size accordingly. If you double this batch, I suggest using to large pans so as to not overcrowd one pan.
  • Do not use green bell peppers in this recipe. They have a completely different flavor and tend to be bitter. Use orange, yellow or red bell peppers for the best, sweetest result.
  • Sometimes, I’ll add anchovy to the pan along with the garlic for more savoriness and umami. If you’re up for this, I suggest 3 to 4 anchovy filets. The anchovy will dissolve as the garlic cooks.
  • Be sure to keep the burner on medium low as the peppers cook. A slow sauté is important to this recipe’s success.
  • White wine vinegar can be used in place of red.
  • Try to use a blend of both black and green olives. My favorites for this dish are black, oil-cured olives and green, fruity Castelvetrano olives.
  • Make peperonata in advance for convenience and so that the flavors have a chance to marry together and get better as they sit.
  • Store cooled leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Freeze it for up to 3 months in an airtight container. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature.
 
Recipe by Mangia With Michele. Please visit my site for more great cooking inspiration!
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1 thought on “Peperonata ~ Italian Sautéed Bell Peppers with Olives and Capers

  1. 5 stars
    I made this and it was sooooo good! We ate it on sandwiches as you suggested and will try it as a bruschetta topping next. Thanks for the recipe!

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