Peppers: properties and pairings

Peppers are one of the ten most widely consumed vegetables in Italy with around 200,000 tons produced annually.

Originating in America like eggplant and tomatoes, they arrived in Europe only after Christopher Columbus’s discovery and today are increasingly synonymous with Mediterranean cuisine.

Peppers play a big role in Italian cuisine but it is thought that in the past they were also very popular with Napoleon. From red and yellow through to green, let's find out about the properties of peppers.


Peppers: calories and nutritional values

Because they are low in calories, peppers are often recommended in diets. Make sure you don’t overdo it though: although they only contain 20 to 30 kcal per 100 grams when raw (varying by type, e.g. green peppers contain fewer calories than red ones), their high water and fiber content can produce laxative effects and the cellulose-rich skin can make them difficult to digest. So don’t eat too many peppers if you suffer from gastritis.

An excellent source of carotenoids, raw peppers are good for you because they are a real concentration of vitamin C. Mineral salts such as potassium, but also iron, magnesium and calcium, enhance their antioxidant properties, which can be beneficial for the skin. They can also have benefits for those with high cholesterol thanks to the presence of flavonoids and capsaicin which help fight the buildup of LDL in the blood.

Properties and varieties of peppers: heat, shape and color

In addition to counteracting bad cholesterol, capsaicin (an alkaloid found in plants of the Capsicum genus such as the chili pepper) is responsible for the spiciness of peppers. There are many varieties of peppers, which differ in terms of their heat (sweet or spicy), but also their shape (square, ribbed, horn-shaped, cherry-shaped, squashed) and color (red, yellow and green).Some of the best-known varieties from northern, central and southern Italy include:

  • Quadrato di Carmagnola: red or yellow, with a sweet flavor. In traditional Piedmontese recipes it is used as an accompaniment for bagna càuda, a typical sauce made from garlic, milk, oil and salted anchovies.
  • Cornetto di Pontecorvo: red, slightly spicy and perfect for chicken with peppers, a Roman specialty.
  • Friggitello: green, narrow and elongated, with a sweet flavor, it is widely used in Campania, Apulia and Basilicata. It is served stewed in a pan.

A note about color: green peppers are a less mature form of the vegetable and slightly more bitter than the other versions.

How to cook peppers?

As well as a low-calorie snack that can be served as crudité with Carli Extra Virgin Olive Oil, peppers also make for versatile and tasty dishes. Let's see how to prepare them:

  • Baked peppers: bake for about 35-40 minutes at 350°F, remove the skin and serve with a drizzle of oil, garlic and parsley.
  • Peppers conserved in oil: cut into strips, cook in water and vinegar, then place in sterilized jars with garlic, basil and black pepper, covering with Olive Oil. For a last-minute appetizer you can open our Grilled Peppers In Oil, perfect on bruschetta or served with our other Vegetables in Oil.
  • Stuffed peppers: stuff with ground meat and sausage, mozzarella or provolone cheese, egg, Parmesan cheese, salt and black pepper and bake for about 20 to 30 minutes at 350°F.
  • Pan-fried peppers: the classic peperonata, accompanied by potatoes or other seasonal vegetables, can be served as a side dish, over pasta or as a filling in a savory tart.