When not traveling, I am a true armchair traveler and frequently find myself in my favorite little chair in the conservatory deeply immersed in books, reading and imaging lands far away. Certain authors have the ability to transport you deep into the heart of a country where you believe you can see the light as they are seeing it, smell the aromas of the food as it cooks in the oven, savor the flavors of the wine as if you were sitting right there at the table. Isabella Dusi and her wonderful novels set in my beloved Montalcino is one such author; Frances Mayes another. In Frances Mayes’ wonderful book ‘A Year in the World’, she mentions a little restaurant in Naples, Campagnola, a simple trattoria jammed with locals. She mentions a little sign that reads ‘Qui si mangia bene e si spende poco’ (‘Here one eats well and spends little.’). Her description of how the owner continually grabs additional folding tables and chairs to accommodate the crowd brings a smile to my face but then her description of the dish of delicious peppers, peperoni ripieni, has me dashing off to the kitchen to give them a try. Peperoni ripieni translates to stuffed peppers – however, these peppers are layered rather than stuffed. This recipe isn’t an exact science – use the quantities you prefer and of course, throw in a few extra bits like capers, black olives perhaps!! Enjoy!!
Roasted Layered Peppers
6 large red bell peppers
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly grated pecorino romano cheese (about 1 cup)
Raisins or currants (about 1/2 cup)
Pine nuts (about 1/2 cup)
Freshly chopped parsley (about 1/4 cup)
Freshly ground pepper
1. First lets roast your peppers (and don’t even think about using store bought peppers from a jar as a substitute!!). Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Place the 6 peppers on a baking sheet and place in the oven. (I usually cover my sheet with foil first.)
3. Check peppers approximately every 15 or 20 minutes. Turn peppers each time you check them so that every side begins to roast and turn brown. The peppers will gradually get wonderfully soft. This process should take about an hour. When the peppers are finished, remove them from the oven and place them in a paper bag to cool. (Occassionally, I use the broiler or an open flame to roast the peppers….they all work fine – just be sure the peppers are soft; not hard with a few charred bits.)
4. Once cool, peel each pepper. The peels should come off the pepper easily. (This can be a bit of a messy process so be sure to do over a sink or large work area!)
5. Cut the peppers into long strips and place in a bowl.
6. Now lets assemble the dish – drizzle olive oil in the bottom of an oven-proof casserole dish. Place one layer of the roasted peppers on the bottom. Sprinkle with roughly 1/2 cup of the grated romano cheese, then about 1/4 cup of raisins, 1/4 cup of pine nuts. Sprinkle 1/2 of the parsley over. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. (Use more or less of any of the ingredients. Add in anything extra you might like – olives, capers, anchovies. Use your imagination and enjoy the process!)
7. Repeat process – layer of peppers, cheese, raisins, pine nuts, parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper…..
8. Drizzle again with olive oil and another dusting of cheese.
9. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the peppers are heated through and the cheese is melted. Serve with warm crusty bread and enjoy….