A member of the Solanaceae family, the genus Capsicum consists of several Capsicum annuum species producing hot peppers, sweet peppers, and bell peppers, a fruit of the cultivar Grossum Group. Introduced to Italy during the second half of the 16th-century, sweet peppers slowly came into acceptance as part of the culinary culture. Now they are an integral part of regional cuisines especially in Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Lombardy, Piedmont, and Sicily. With several varieties grown, the most popular are the bell-shaped thick-walled pepper and the long Italian sweet pepper. Sweet peppers are excellent sources of vitamins C and A, two powerful antioxidants. Containing vitamin B6 and folic acid, they are recommended for reducing high levels of homocysteine, known to cause damage to blood vessels. Anyone at risk for heart attacks or strokes, or suffering from diabetic heart disease, can benefit from including sweet peppers in the diet.
Red peppers contain lycopene, a carotenid whose consumption has been correlated with reducing risk for prostate, cervix, bladder, and pancreatic cancers. A beautiful fruit, possessing such healthful benefits, sweet peppers are so easy to serve raw or cooked in many Italian dishes.
Sweet peppers are delicious simply roasted in a 400° F/200° C/Gas Mark 6 oven for about 20 minutes or grill for 10 minutes. Adapting so well to stuffing, create your own mix with cooked pasta, rice, toasted croutons, minced meat, poultry or shellfish, accent with some fresh herbs and bake for about 40 minutes in a 350° F/175° C/Gas Mark 4 oven. Garnish antipasti platters and salads, mix into soups and sauces, preserve…it’s up to your imagination.