If – as I have heard several times – you also think that dried chillies can easily replace fresh ones, you would certainly change your mind after tasting this amazing condiment. Apart from their obvious heat, fresh chillies are naturally sweet, vibrant and fruity. The combination of these qualities combined with garlic and olive oil create here a unique taste and olfactory experience, bringing a sunny touch to any meal or snack. For years I have been enjoying peperoncini sott’olio in my favourite pizzerias and had no idea it would be so easy to make at home (moreover with a luscious result).
Looking for a reliable recipe for something I even didn’t know had a name, I learnt that peperoncini sott’olio (chillies in oil) are a Calabrian specialty (just like “olio santo”, the extremely popular chilli-infused oil) and that every home cook seems to have a different method… There are two major types: chopped fresh chillies or bigger chilli chunks, both preserved in olive oil, sometimes also with garlic (some versions also call for herbs). As the name suggests and as you see at the photograph, chillies dominate the jar and are simply covered with oil, contrary to chilli oil (the only exception is the thick Japanese chilli oil, Taberu Rayu, which has a lot of sediments). I have chosen the chopped pepper version since it was easier and seemed more versatile. Garlic’s presence is not obligatory, but as a big fan, I would never skip this option. This recipe is a mixture of what I liked most and what I found easiest among all the web sources I visited. If you understand Italian, I found useful tips and remarks for example here and here. I have read some other recipes probably too, but these are the only sources I remember…
I have never tried long-term preserving fresh produce in oil (much trickier and definitely dangerous than for example chilli oil made with dried peppers) and given different methods and ideas of oil preservation I found, for now I decided to content myself with a short-term fridge preserve I intend to finish in maximum ten days. (Given the fact that in the several hours following the preparation I ate half of the jar content only with baguette slices, I don’t think my peperoncini sott’olio will keep that long, anyway…).
TIPS: If you wonder how to use this condiment, as I have mentioned, it’s fantastic on a pizza, but also on a slice of good bread, on pasta, on toast, in a sandwich, on potatoes, grilled meat, fish… and I had it yesterday with a wild mushroom omelette… It was extraordinary!
This is a short-term preserving method, which moreover uses fresh produce and has a very low acidity, so keep it in the fridge.
Vinegar is here not only to add some acidity, always good for preservation, but also to improve the taste. Before adding the vinegar I found this somewhat bland.
Preparation: about 30 – 40 minutes
Ingredients (yields 1 x 200 ml jar (not full)):
10 long fresh red chillies (mine were10-12 cm long and were only slightly hot; I have no idea what the variety is called like; adapt the heat level to your preferences)
1-2 garlic cloves
150 ml olive oil
1 tablespoon wine vinegar (I have used red wine vinegar)
Wash the chilli peppers.
Discard the stems.
Chop roughly the peeled garlic clove.
Mix both in a food processor (don’t make a pulp though, they should be just very finely chopped) or chop with a knife (wearing gloves!).
Warm an empty frying pan.
Heat the chopped chillies and garlic at very low temperature, constantly stirring, so that they dry a bit and release some of their juices (but don’t dry them too much; they shouldn’t change the colour).
After about 5 minutes pour the oil into the pan.
Fry the chillies at very low temperature for about 20 minutes.
Put aside and when it cools down, add the vinegar and salt to taste.
Put into a jar, close it and keep in the fridge for ten days maximum.
Chillies can be eaten at once, but they improve with time, so try to wait 24 hours before serving.