It's autumn here in Abruzzo and every household has collected chillies from their kitchen gardens, strung them together and hung them in patios, back doors, sides of houses....anywhere that will get enough sun and air to help dry them ready for using all year round.
One ingredient that typifies Abruzzo cooking is il diavolino, the little devil - chilli. It is used in many of the traditional dishes of Abruzzo, along with its milder, sweeter sister, peperoncino dolce. Fresh, dried, preserved in oil, ground, chopped....it is an essential part to the colour and flavour of Abruzzese dishes.
On many tables in Abruzzo, you may be presented with a whole chilli and a small knife or scissors to chop tiny morsels over your pasta or add to your plate to add depth and of course, fire. Above you can see a photo of a tray of chilli presented to me at an Abruzzese restaurant, each method of preparing the chilli having a different purpose. I was sweating just looking at them!
There are a few dishes that stand out for me as wonderful examples of using the capsicum family in simple, yet flavoursome Abruzzese cooking.
1. Abruzzo lamb ragu usually has some chilli as well as chopped capisicum
2. Pasta with oil, garlic and chilli. Simple perfection, especially late at night!
3. Roasted capsicums drizzled in lashings of olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs
4. Pasta with olive oil and chunks of dried sweet capsicums
5. Roasted capsicums pan fried with a beaten egg
6. Ventricina salami, peppered with the fiery backdrop of dried chilli
7. Leafy green vegetables, boiled then sautéed with oil, boiled potato, garlic and dried chilli
And the list could go on....
So add some fire (and sweetness) to your life and do like the Abruzzese - add a touch of chilli to everything. You'll be surprised just how good it is!