My family’s ancestral region of Calabria is famous for the peperoncini or chili peppers! My childhood home had a large vegetable garden and my parents grew a few varieties of peppers. Once harvested my mother would dry the chili peppers on cookie sheets in the backyard sun during the day and bring them into the house in the evenings. They would be brought in and out of the house for as long as it took until they were fully dry.
There were a number of vegetables that would be dried in this manner to preserve them for the Winter. Once fully dried, my mother would use her manual meat grinder to grind some of them and place them in jars. These crushed chilies were used for the annual sausage and salami production in the winter and for day to day seasoning. The remaining whole chilies would be used to season something that you only wish to impart a small amount of spice. If you drop a whole dried chili in a pot of tomato sauce and then remove it after a short time, it will be less spicy than the crushed.
I have fond memories of being at family weddings and when the pasta course was served all the men would produce a chili pepper from their suit jacket pocket to season their dish. And then, of course, they would boast about who had the best harvest that year…
I love a sprinkling of chilies on pasta with a tomato based sauce. I think it rounds out the flavours, especially with some sharp Parmigiano-Reggiano, DOP, cheese as well. I’ve started infusing olive oil with our home grown and dried chilies as well to finish pizza or pasta. It is also a great starting point for a sauce that needs layers of spice such as an Arrabiata Sauce. It makes a great little gift for your friends too! Enjoy…
Ciao for now, Natalina!
Chili infused olive oil (hot method)
- 3 cups good quality olive oil (I use the olive oil I cook with)
- 1/4 - 3/4 cups crushed chili peppers (adjust the heat as you like)
- 6-12 whole dried chili peppers
- Add all the ingredients to a large pot and only add enough whole and crushed chilies according to your spice tolerance.
- Turn the heat to medium/high. Heat the oil only until small bubbles start to form around the edges. Do not leave the pot unattended. Once it is heated with the small bubbles, turn off the heat.
- Add the lid to the pot and place it in a cold room such as a cold cellar for a few days.
- After a few days, it should have a red tinge to it and the oil will now be infused with the chili flavor. Pour it into decorative bottles with some of the crushed and whole chilies. Top with a lid or cork and use within the same best before date as the olive oil used.