Traditional recipes

Peperonata (Sautéed Peppers and Onions)

Peperonata (Sautéed Peppers and Onions)

Peperonata or Sautéed Peppers and Onions - Italian bell pepper, onion, tomato sauté, with garlic, ground oregano, and fresh basil. An easy summer side dish.

Photography Credit:Elise Bauer

Peperonata – Sautéed Peppers and Onions

Have you noticed the brightly colored bell peppers in the market lately? They’re glorious.

Here’s a quick and easy recipe for Italian peperonata, or sautéed peppers and onions with fresh plum tomatoes, garlic, and basil.

This is one of those “I almost ate the whole batch” dishes, only reluctantly shared with my parents who agreed they were terrific.

How to Sauté Onions and Peppers

Peperonata recipes come in many versions; some get cooked a good long time, some get cooked with potatoes, or without tomatoes. This dish is certainly open-for-improvisation!

Rather than cooking the peppers until they were stew-like, we opted for a light sauté so there is still some crunch in the vegetables. A perfect side dish for chicken or fish, these sautéed peppers and onions go great on bread, and great on their own too.

By the way, we made a little video of a quick and easy way to slice bell peppers. Enjoy!

Peperonata (Sautéed Peppers and Onions) Recipe


  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
  • 2 yellow bell peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
  • 2 orange or green bell peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
  • 1 large onion, sliced into half-moons
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4-5 Roma or other plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, leaves torn roughly
  • Lemon juice


1 Sauté the onions: Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the onions. Sprinkle with a little salt and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until the onions just begin to color.

2 Add the peppers: Add the peppers and stir well to combine with the onions. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring often. The peppers should be al dente—cooked, but with a little crunch left in them.

3 Add the garlic: Add the garlic, and sauté another 1-2 minutes.

4 Add salt, sugar, oregano: Sprinkle a little more salt over everything and add the sugar and dried oregano. Cook 1 minute.

5 Add the diced tomatoes, and cook just one minute further.

6 Add basil, black pepper, lemon juice: Turn off the heat and mix in the torn basil. Grind some black pepper over everything. Right before serving squeeze a little lemon juice over the dish.

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Sauteed Peppers and Onions

Looking for a healthy and easy side dish? These sauteed peppers and onions are a rainbow of tender, caramelized flavor! Oddly enough, this revelation is a new find over here. We’ve made the requisite fajita veggies, and thrown those peppers and onions on the grill. But simply sauteeing them up in a pan seemed too simple…until we tasted them. The sweet flavor and tender texture are truly irresistible! Even better: they’re full of nutrients and jam packed with Vitamin C. Eat them as a side or throw them in sandwiches, on pizza, or in tacos: you name it! Game changer.

Peperonata - More than just peppers

Colourful peppers and tomatoes bring the taste of summer and lots of colour to your table: peperonata is a typical Italian side dish or starter. My family, for example, loves it on toasted white bread with olive oil and basil.

Simply good

The peperonata originated in southern Italy. Here under the intense sun, farmers can harvest the first peppers and tomatoes as early as spring. This quickly prepared steamed vegetable has long been known and loved throughout Italy. The basic recipe for peperonata includes not only peppers but also garlic and/or onion and ripe tomatoes. The difference: stewed or sautéed peppers are called peperoni.

Peperonata tips

Even the simplest of foods can be improved with the right tricks: always choose ripe, firm and relatively small vegetables for the peperonata. They are usually more aromatic. Because of their special combination of spicy and sweetness, you should use red onions. And the perfect peperonata should stand for 4 to 6 hours at room temperature (not in the refrigerator!). Only then does the unmistakable taste develop.

Easiest Summer Ever: Peperonata (Sautéed Bell Peppers With Tomato, Onion, and Garlic)

Quick: How many dishes can you name with bell peppers as the one and only star ingredient?

I asked myself this question recently and got stuck on crudités. And even that's not a good answer, because a raw vegetable platter gives equal billing to all the other options, from celery sticks to carrots.

Stuffed peppers? I'd argue that the stuffing is just as important.

Roasted pepper pasta? Nah, it can't exist without the pasta.

See what I mean? As much as we use peppers in all sorts of dishes, they almost never get the spotlight all to themselves. Except for in peperonata. If you haven't heard of it, peperonata is a side dish from southern Italy that features sweet summer bell peppers cooked down in plenty of olive oil until they're meltingly soft. It's so simple, it belongs in our collection of Easiest Summer Ever recipes.

Sure, there are a few other ingredients. There's some tomato in there, and certainly some onion and garlic. You can hit it with a splash of wine vinegar for a little sweet-sour effect, or add an herb like basil or oregano for some extra layers of aromatics. But peperonata is ultimately all about those peppers.

So let's start there: This dish is most worth making in the summer, when bell peppers are intensely sweet and flavorful. That sweetness is important, since it forms the base of the gentle sweet-sour character that makes peperonata so good. Out-of-season peppers can be used, but you may need to sprinkle on a tiny bit of sugar to get the flavor balance right. Green bell peppers, which are just red or yellow ones before they turn ripe, have no place in this dish for the very same reason—they bring very little natural sugar to the table.

To make it, I start by slicing bell peppers into strips. Be sure to trim away any of the white ribs inside the peppers.

I gently cook sliced garlic in a generous amount of olive oil until it shows the first hints of turning golden.

Next, I add sliced onions and get them started on their way to softness.

I don't let the onions go too long before adding the peppers, though. Peppers need quite a bit of time to fully soften, so it's better to get them into the pot sooner than later.

I let the peppers cook for a bit, until they start to compress. You'll notice that at first they nearly fill this pot. That's because they're so rigid that they stack up with lots of space between them.

Once they've started to collapse, I add some tomato puree, which I make by simply blending canned whole tomatoes with their juices.

I also throw in some herbs. In this case, I've used sprigs of fresh basil, which I love in this dish, but oregano and marjoram are excellent choices, too.

I let the whole thing simmer over moderate heat until the peppers are totally softened and bathed in a rich sauce of their own reduced juices mixed with the olive oil that can take up to an hour or so, so be patient. A touch of wine vinegar right at the end helps brighten the whole thing up.

This is another one of those dishes that's good hot, but even better served at room temperature after spending a night in the fridge. It's great alongside roasted meats or as a side dish that's part of a larger spread, as well as spooned onto good, crusty rustic bread.

One bite is enough to make me believe that bell peppers are capable of a lot more starring roles than they're given. But even if they're destined to be a one-hit wonder, this is a heck of a hit.

Recipe Summary

  • 6 (4 ounce) links sweet Italian sausage
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • ½ red onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ cup white wine

Place the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, and brown on all sides. Remove from skillet, and slice.

Melt butter in the skillet. Stir in the yellow onion, red onion, and garlic, and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in red bell pepper and green bell pepper. Season with basil, and oregano. Stir in white wine. Continue to cook and stir until peppers and onions are tender.

Return sausage slices to skillet with the vegetables. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes, or until sausage is heated through.

How to make sauteed peppers and onions

Slice 4 bell peppers, 1 red onion and 1 yellow onion into strips. (photo 1)

Add them into a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat along with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. (photo 2)

Add in the salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and dried oregano. (photo 3)

Stir everything together and cook for 15-17 minutes, until the veggies are softened and caramelized. Add in 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon of minced garlic and cook for 1 more minute. (photo 4)

Remove from heat and serve.


Serves 8
1kg red peppers
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A small knob of butter
1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and pressed
Salt, to taste
450g peeled plum tomatoes (or fresh when in season)
Red wine vinegar, to taste (optional)

1 Cut the peppers into strips, about 1cm wide and 6cm long, discarding the seeds, stalks and any pithy white bits.

2 In a heavy-based pan with a lid, warm the olive oil and butter over a medium-low heat, then cook the onion and garlic until soft, translucent and fragrant (they should not brown), which usually takes about 10 minutes. Add the peppers and a pinch of salt, stir, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring every now and then.

3 Add the tomatoes, stir and then leave, uncovered, at a lively simmer for 30-40 minutes. Stir occasionally, gently pressing the tomatoes against the side of the pan, so they break up.

4 The peperonata is ready when the peppers are soft and everything has come together into a thick stew (it shouldn’t be sloppy). Taste, season generously, and add a dash of vinegar to sharpen things up, should you want to.

Rachel Roddy is a Rome-based food blogger and author of Five Quarters: Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome (Saltyard, 2015)

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Recipe Variations

Cooking time for peperonata can vary from place to place, depending on your preference.

Additional ingredients vary from region to region as well. While the base ingredients typically include sweet peppers, onions, tomatoes and garlic, other ingredients you might include are potato, eggplant (see my Ajvar recipe), olives, capers, zucchini, or more.

Additional seasonings might include lemon, sugar, other herbs, parsley.

If you&rsquore looking for a spicier version of this recipe, consider adding in some hotter peppers, like red jalapeno peppers, serrano peppers, even habaneros or Scotch Bonnets. Those will really spice things up!

You&rsquoll also find peperonata spelled &ldquopepperonata&rdquo, which is more of an Americanized spelling, though each spelling is correct. Regardless of how you decide to spell it, it&rsquos crazy delicious!

How to serve?

This Pepperonata recipe is versatile, tastes great when combined with any other main courses. Serve as hot, chilled, or at room temperature.

Sauce. Toss it over the pasta or serve over polenta for a rich peppery flavor.

Topping. Add as topping for a warm, and cozy pizza. Or serve with creamy polenta.

Side dish. Serve with grilled meat or barbecue, your family is going to love you this.

As spread. A wonderful spread, and great to be served as a top layer for a burger and a sandwich.

The Writing Corner

Photo by Vicky Wasik for Serious Eats.

The bag from Glade Road Growing this week will include salad mix, bell peppers and tomatoes. If your bell peppers have a reddish or yellowish tint, you can let them ripen on the counter and they will be sweeter. The traditional southern Italian recipes I've seen call for the colored peppers, but this is delicious with green peppers, too. You may want to add demerara sugar or honey, though, at the end, a little bit at a time, until the flavor is balanced, to make up for the lack of sweetness.

This makes a nice side veggie hot, or chilled, it's a great spread on bread or can be tossed with cooked pasta or quinoa. If you want to make it a whole meal, along with the pasta, stir in 2 cups of cooked chickpeas or white beans or lentils and serve over salad mix.

6 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 medium cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, root end removed and thinly sliced
1 medium yellow onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 large bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and sliced lengthwise 1/2 inch thick
Tomatoes, chopped, to make 2 cups
1 sprig basil, sliced into ribbons, with stem discarded (or save for veggie broth) or 1/2 teaspoon dried
Sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

1. In a cast iron skill, heat 4 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until just starting to turn golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in onions, increase heat to medium-high, and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, about 20 minutes.

3. Transfer to a large pot and add tomatoes and basil and stir to combine. Bring to a gentle simmer, then lower heat to maintain simmer. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until peppers are very soft, about 1 hour. Stir in remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Stir in vinegar and the sugar or honey, if necessary. Serve right away, or chill, then serve reheated, slightly chilled, or at room temperature.