Finding Peperone Friariello -- A Favorite Neapolitan Pepper
Peperone friariello, also known as peperoncini verdi, is the name of a small bright green pepper that grows in the Naples area in the spring and early summer. (Don't confuse it with the similarly named, but not at all the same friarielli broccoli, a Neapolitan type of broccoli rabe, which is in season in the winter time and is eaten as a side dish or pizza topping.) The peppers are long, cone shaped pods range from about 1 to 3-inches in length and typically are fried whole, seeds and all, until blistered and browned. When fully ripe, they turn bright red and look like chilies, but they are mild and sweet. You can eat the whole pepper in one or two bites. I love their delicate flavor and find them much more appealing than green bell peppers.
I ate peperoni friarielli often when I was in Praiano on the Amalfi Coast earlier this summer. I ordered them in restaurants and bought them in the markets whenever I saw them. Back in our rental apartment kitchen, I fried them in olive oil to serve with grilled sausages, or tossed them with tomatoes to sauce linguine. Like the view of Capri, or the scent of the sfusato lemons, I figured they would be one of the many things I would miss when we returned home.
Back in New York, I was shopping at the Union Square Greenmarket and stopped at Yuno’s farm stand. Yuno’s has some of the brightest, freshest, and most unusual produce in the market and I often shop there for things like zucchini flowers, crisp greens and buttery avocado zucchini. That day, samples of a small green Japanese pepper known as shishito were being fried and offered to shoppers. They smelled great so I took one. It tasted just like a friariello! I took a closer look at the raw peppers and noticed that they were very similar except for a slightly ribbed surface. I bought a bagful and brought them home.
I trimmed off the ends of the stems and I fried the shishitos just the way I did the peperoni friarielli in Praiano. I added some tomato, and a handful of basil from my garden and simmered them a few minutes more. I tossed them with linguine and they looked just right. Charles was so delighted to see them that he popped a bottle of Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina, one of my favorite white wines from the Naples area. It was a perfect quick summer meal and for a little while at least, we felt just like we were back on vacation.
I have bought shishitos several times since and notice that the latest ones are somewhat hot. It was a nice surprise, and we enjoyed that little bit of a kick. Yuno’s farm stand is at the Union Square Greenmarket on Mondays and Fridays.
Peperone friariello seeds are available here by mail order through websites that specialize in Italian culinary seeds. You can be sure I will start them early next spring and grow them on my terracein the summer.
LINGUINE WITH PEPERONI FRIARIELLI (OR SHISHITOS) AND TOMATOES
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces peperoni friarielli or shishito peppers, stems removed
1 large garlic clove, smashed
Kosher or sea salt
2 cups canned Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped
6 - 8 fresh basil leaves, torn
8 ounces linguine
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Discard the garlic. Add the peppers and cook, stirring often, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt. Add the tomatoes and their juice and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boiling on high heat. Add salt and linguine and stir well. Cook, stirring often until the pasta is slightly undercooked. Drain the pasta reserving a little of the cooking water. Pour the pasta into the skillet with the sauce. Add the basil and cook, tossing and stirring, until the pasta is tender. You don’t need cheese with this pasta, but a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil would be a nice finish.
Charles recommends: Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina