This easy Pasta Peperonata is tossed with a rich and savory sauce made with sautéed peppers, onions, tomato, anchovies, and capers. All that’s left to do is top it off with fresh Parmesan and serve with crusty bread for a hearty and delicious 25-minute weeknight meal.
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Why We Love This Recipe For Easy Pasta Peperonata
The hot, dry Italian summer settles over the hillside, and wafts of garlic, peppers, and onion swirl through the air: ah, it’s peperonata season! Can you tell I want to be in Italy right now?
Peperonata comes from the word peperone, meaning “sweet peppers,” and is a dish comprised of stewed peppers and onions (and other seasonal veggies if you’d like) generally eaten with bread, pasta, or my preference – both! Traditionally a vegetarian dish, we’ve decided to create this recipe in the same vein as our Puttanesca Sauce by incorporating anchovy and capers. The salt of the anchovy, and the umami from the capers create the perfect flavor balance alongside the sweet peppers, tomatoes, and onions.
Peppers are a real standout vegetable in the summer and this pasta peperonata is a delicious way to highlight them! The key to cooking the perfect peppers for this dish is to cook them slowly until they are meltingly soft and their sweetness is pulled to the surface. The moisture that cooks out of the peppers and onions makes the texture of the sauce velvety and rich.
Our version of peperonata is also tossed together with pasta, but you can serve this as a sort of bruschetta-type appetizer by spooning it over crusty bread. You can also enjoy it all on its own for a light and refreshing summer vegetable treat!
Key Ingredients for this Recipe
Red bell peppers are known to be the sweetest of sweet peppers, so I recommend using two red bell peppers, and two yellow bell peppers. If you like the taste of sautéed green peppers you can sub in two of them in place of a red or yellow pepper. They will contribute a slightly grassy flavor to the peperonata.
A large sweet onion is going to stew alongside the bell peppers to create a sweet and flavorful sauce. If you like more color, use red onions instead.
Chopped anchovy disintegrate into the vegetable sauce, adding a salty and savory flavor to the otherwise sweet dish. Look for sustainable anchovies when shopping as these little guys are endangered now! Feel free to omit them if you do not like them or are vegetarian. If you do so add a pinch of salt to taste.
Not only do the capers add a salty and umami flavoring to the dish, they’re also secretly packed with antioxidants!
Step by Step Instructions to Make This Recipe
Step 1: Cook Pasta
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and give it a good stir so that it doesn’t stick together. Cook according to the package instructions.
I like to follow the timing for al dente pasta as it has the best texture and is slightly lower glycemic than pasta that is cooked longer. If you are not sure, give the cooked pasta a little taste to see if the texture is right for you. Drain the pasta through a colander or sieve.
Feel free to keep a cup of the starchy cooking water if you like to thin your sauce with it.
Step 2: Heat Skillet and Sauté
While your pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large frying pan, straight-sided skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add anchovy, chopped garlic cloves, and crushed red pepper. Stir this together until it’s fragrant, which should be about 15 to 30 seconds.
Step 3: Add Peppers
Add red and yellow peppers, onion, and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook until the peppers and onion start to brown. Stir often for about 14 to 16 minutes.
Step 4: Add Tomato and Capers
Stir in the tomato puree and capers and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover the pan, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, removing the lid to stir occasionally, until the peppers are very tender. This should take about 10 minutes.
Step 5: Add Pasta, Garnish, and Serve!
Stir in the drained pasta until combined over low heat. If you like to thin your pasta sauce with the cooking liquid, do so a little at a time to desired consistency. Divide the dish among four plates and serve garnished with Parmigiano cheese and parsley on top. Enjoy!
FAQs and Expert Tips
Traditionally, it is! In some versions from Southern Italy, and in this version of thedish we use anchovy. If you don’t like anchovies or are vegetarian you can omit them. To compensate for the anchovies, add salt to taste.
We love using chickpea pasta for added protein but we prefer the penne shape in this dish.
The anchovies get a little funky after the first day, so if you’re planning to have extra servings for leftovers we’d omit the anchovies.
Variations To Try
- Vinegar: Typically peperonata has a bit of vinegar added at the end, and in earlier versions of the recipe I did include 1 1/2 teaspoon of red wine vinegar instead of tomato puree. Once I added the tomato to the recipe I didn’t feel that the additional acidity was required. That said, if you want to try this peperonata without tomato, then I suggest adding in a splash of balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar at the end for a bit of brightness.
- Basil: We used fresh chopped parsley at the end for brightness. Feel free to use fresh basil instead.
- Olives: Add black olives with the capers. Try to find Italian black olives for the best authentic taste.
- Fresh Tomatoes: During tomato season, omit the tomato sauce or tomato puree and add a couple of chopped plum tomatoes with the peppers.
- Pine Nuts: Toast a couple tablespoons of pine nuts in a small skillet over moderate heat, swirling the skillet often until they are a little bit golden and lightly fragrant. Sprinkle on top of the pasta and peperonata sauce.
Additional Healthy Pepper Recipes to Try
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This easy Pasta Peperonata is tossed with a rich and sweet sauce made with sautéed peppers, onions, tomato, anchovies, and capers. All that’s left to do is top it off with fresh Parmesan and serve with crusty bread for a hearty and delicious 25-minute weeknight meal.
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, plus more for pasta water, divided
8 ounces dry pasta, such as linguini, regular or chickpea (see note)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 anchovy filets, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Generous pinch crushed red pepper
2 red bell peppers, sliced
2 yellow bell peppers, sliced
1 large sweet onion, French cut
1 cup canned tomato puree
1 tablespoon capers
Chopped Italian parsley and shredded Parmigiano Reggiano for serving
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions for al dente. Drain well.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a large straight-sided skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add anchovy, garlic and crushed red pepper and stir until fragrant, 15 to 30 seconds.
- Add red and yellow peppers, onion and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring often, until the peppers and onion start to brown, 14 to 16 minutes.
- Stir in tomato puree and capers and bring to simmer. Cover the pan, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, removing lid to stir occasionally, until the peppers are very tender, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the drained pasta and stir to combine over low heat. Divide among four plates and serve garnished with Parmigiano cheese and parsley on top.
If you do not like anchovies or are vegetarian you can omit them. Simply taste and add additional salt if desired.
We love using chickpea pasta for added protein in this mostly meatless meal. We do not recommend the spaghetti or linguine shape though and prefer penne instead.
The anchovies in this get a little funky on the second day so if you are planning to make enough for leftovers, omit the anchovies.
- Serving Size: 4 servings
- Calories: 430
- Sugar: 8 g
- Fat: 16 g
- Carbohydrates: 62 g
- Fiber: 6 g
- Protein: 11 g