During the summer months, bell peppers are one of my favorite vegetables to have on hand. They’re practically overflowing out of the bins at the grocery store and they’re priced affordably, which gives me the perfect excuse to make this roasted bell pepper salad, one of my favorite summer side dishes. In Italian, this dish is known as peperoni arrostiti. I grew up eating this often where it was served alongside grilled flank steak, pork roast, or roasted chicken. Lately, this salad has been part of our Friday night “no-cook” dinners where I serve it with a platter of prosciutto, a refreshing Caprese salad, and some rustic bread to help mop up the salad’s simple, flavor-packed olive oil dressing.
With all the delicious ways Italians prepare bell peppers, you would think they are original to the peninsula, but they actually came from the New World in the mid sixteenth century along with a host of other fruits and vegetables. Originally, bell peppers were regarded suspiciously and thought of as poisonous, but thanks to curious botanists who studied the plants and determined them fit for consumption, bell peppers eventually became a widely cultivated vegetable throughout Italy, especially in the regions of Basilicata, Umbria, Lombardia, Piemonte, and Calabria.
The easiest and fastest way to cook the peppers for this recipe is to broil them on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. The skin should blister and char all over. You know you’re doing it right when your kitchen smells as if something is on fire. As the skin of the peppers blackens, the flesh will begin to soften and collapse, and the peppers will release most of their water. You will need to turn the peppers three to four times, and once the peppers are completely charred, you need to get them into a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap right away–the skin will loosen from the flesh as the peppers steam making them easy to peel once they have cooled.
There really isn’t a strict recipe for this salad so use my measurements below more as a guideline. I often make this salad using all red peppers, but I also like to use a mix of colors. I don’t recommend making this salad using only green bell peppers–I just broil one for some color contrast–the sweeter red, yellow, and orange peppers are the best varieties to use for this salad. The amount of olive oil, salt and pepper you use to dress the salad depends on how many peppers you roast. The peppers should never drown in oil–you want to use only enough to coat them lightly. The oil will mingle with some of the juices released from the peppers giving the salad a subtle smoky flavor that is punctuated by the pungent slivers of fresh garlic and the fragrant basil. Not only can you eat this salad as a side dish, but you can also take a few slivers of pepper and add them to a sandwich or frittata. The peppers also make a flavorful addition to pasta salad and are the perfect topper for crostini. So before summer comes to an end, take advantage of the season’s offerings and make a roasted red pepper salad. It’s the taste of an Italian summer in a bowl.Print
- 5–6 bell peppers (various colors)
- 2–3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and sliced thin
- ¼ cup Extra-virgin olive oil (more if necessary)
- Salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Fresh basil leaves, hand-torn
- Adjust an oven rack close to the broiler element, leaving enough space for the bell peppers. Set your oven’s broiler to High and allow to preheat for about 5 minutes. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.
- Remove any produce stickers from the bell peppers and wash them thoroughly under cold, running water. Set them on the foil-lined baking sheet (no need to dry them). Broil the bell peppers using tongs to turn them often, until they are charred on all sides (they will soften and begin to collapse as they broil). Transfer the bell peppers to a large heat-proof bowl and cover immediately with plastic wrap. Set the bowl aside for about 45 minutes to allow the peppers to steam so the skin will loosen from the flesh.
- Working on a large cutting board, peel each pepper, discarding the skin, seeds, stem, and any liquid. Slice the flesh into thick strips and place into a clean serving bowl. Add in the sliced garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and basil and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature.
- Storage: Store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator and eat within 2-3 days.