There are rules in my family, rules that must be followed if you don’t want to be banned from the kitchen: bell peppers have to be stuffed with rice. When you come to small green peppers, though, the story is totally different! This is a recipe that comes from the South of Italy, from my father’s branch of family, from Melfi (PZ).
The recipe belongs to my Aunt Patrizia (known as zizi), my granddad’s sister. When Aunt Teresa and Uncle Cesare go to Melfi to visit her, she knows that, as soon as they pass Rome, everything they expect and foretaste are these stuffed green peppers. Zia Patrizia makes the stuffed green peppers the day before, because if you give them a little while to rest, they are still better and gain a deeper flavour.
These peppers come in the late summer and are wisely filled with leftovers, with what is left in the house after the heath of the summer months. The poor version is made only with stale bread, capers and some anchovy fillets, nothing more. With the passing of time the technique has been refined and you end up putting into the stuffing tuna, some pickles and a generous handful of green and black olives.
The importance of bread. As you can see, breadcrumbs are the most important ingredient in your shopping list, but I’m not talking about the classic breadcrumbs you can buy in a bag, with a sandy texture and a sawdust after-taste. I mean a bowl of fragrant breadcrumbs made in the moment, something that you can store for months in the refrigerator in an airtight jar.
As it happens in many families, you can have leftover bread: do not throw it away, but grate your home bread or blend it into a liquidizer until you get a rustic crumbly texture. It is a breadcrumbs that brings its origins intertwined into its flavourful crumbs: the breadcrumbs made from the South Italy bread will be darker and tasty, the one made from Tuscan bread will be sciocco, without salt. Yes, even Dante Alighieri, the most renowned Tuscan poet, pointed this out:
Tu proverai sì come sa di sale lo pane altrui
Thou shalt have proof how savoureth of salt The bread of others
- about 20green peppers, small and thin
- 400 g of breadcrumbs
- about 150 g of tuna, in oil or natural
- 5 or 6 anchovies, chopped in small pieces
- 1 tablespoon of pickled capers
- 2 tablespoons of black or green olives, pitted and chopped
- 1 ripe tomato, cut into small pieces
- some pickles
- extra virgin olive oil
- Gently wash and dry the green peppers, remove the stem and the seeds with a sharp knife.
- In a large bowl combine with your hands the breadcrumbs, the tuna, the chopped anchovies, the chopped olives, a generous handful of chopped pickles, the diced tomato and its juice. If your bread is without salt, just like the Tuscan bread, add a pinch of salt to taste. Let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Fill the peppers with the help of a spoon and arrange them in a baking tin greased with extra virgin olive oil. Drizzle the green peppers with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
- Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden: the peppers should be well roasted and golden brown in some points. A tempting smell will tell you that they are ready.
Are you curious to know something more about the cooking of Lucania, this tiny region in the South of Italy? Here you can find a couple of suggestions:
- rich lasagna from the South of Italy, the festive dish. When my big and loud family gathers for special occasions, this baked lasagna with all you can imagine inside can’t be missed!
- Oriental style peppers, a colourful side dish, a tempting appetizer, a break in the afternoon with some crusty bread… choose your moment, you’ll love them!