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Pepperonata is an Italian dish made with fresh bell peppers stewed with tomatoes, sweet onion, garlic, and vinegar. It makes an amazing side dish, main course, or condiment.


This classic Italian Pepperonata is a must for anyone who loves bell peppers.  It's easy to make, full of flavor, and can be used in so many different ways. Whether you serve it with some creamy polenta, serve it on a bed of spaghetti squash, or use it as a sauce for chicken - it won't disappoint.

Pepperonata is an Italian dish made with bell peppers, sweet onion, tomatoes, garlic, and balsamic vinegar. Everything is cooked together until the peppers and tomatoes begin to break down and form a sauce.

Traditionally it is served with a loaf of crusty bread for dipping, sort of like a tapenade. It's also sometimes used as a pasta sauce or as a topping for polenta.

Once you start making it, you will want to serve it on just about everything. I have served it over chicken, fish, pork, and shrimp.

You can also add a can of chickpeas or cannellini beans to turn it into a heartier vegetarian dish. Top it with from fresh Parmesan, goat, or feta cheese for a meal you won't be able to put down.

One quick note about this dish. Traditionally, pepperonata is cooked until the peppers almost completely break down and form a sauce. However, I prefer it with the peppers slightly less cooked so they retain some of their shape and texture. It's completely up to you and the recipe is delicious both ways.

Pepperonata with green, red, and yellow bell peppers with onions, garlic, and tomatoes in a bowl.

What to serve with Pepperonata?

There are so many different ways to serve this yummy dish. Here are some of our tried and true favorites.

  • Polenta: Without a doubt, my favorite way to eat Pepperonata is over a warm bowl of creamy polenta with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a simple green salad on the side.
  • Pasta: This is also great as a pasta sauce with any type of traditional or gluten-free pasta you like. It also works with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles for a lower carb option. When using it for sauce, make sure to really the peppers soften and begin to break down.
  • As a sauce: Dress up any simple chicken or pork dish by serving this as a sauce for your protein. 
  • Grain bowls: Grab a bowl of farro, rice, or quinoa and serve this on top with some fresh greens. 
  • Eggs: Pepperonata is even delicious with eggs.  Cook them shakshuka style in this tasty bell pepper sauce.

Recipe Variations and Ideas

This recipe is very easy to customize to fit your tastes and preferences. 

  • Make it spicy: To add some spice to this dish, add a diced jalapeno or Italian Calabrian chili pepper to the mix. You could also add red pepper flakes, harissa, or Italian chili oil.
  • Add pepperoncinis: For a slightly different and delicious flavor, add some pepperoncinis to the dish. It adds tang, a touch of heat, and a great zing to the dish.
  • Use canned tomatoes: If you can't find fresh tomatoes, you can swap in a can of diced tomatoes with their juice instead.
  • Add fresh herbs: Add all your favorite fresh herbs and spices to add flavor. Consider a few sprigs of rosemary, thyme, or oregano. 
  • Add beans: If you are planning on serving this as a main dish, you can add a can of chickpeas, cannellini beans, or Great Northern beans.
  • Add protein: Another option for a main dish is to add cooked, sliced chicken sausage. 

Italian pepperonata in a skillet with peppers, tomatoes, and onions being added to a bowl with a wooden spoon.

Can this be used as a sauce?

This works great as a sauce for pasta, grains, proteins, and more. When using it for a sauce, make sure to let the peppers break down completely to create a smoother, softer sauce. 

Is pepperonata freezer friendly?

This freezes well and can kept frozen for up to 6 months in the freezer. Let it defrost overnight in the fridge before using or slowly reheat it on the stovetop. This will also keep well in the fridge for up to 5 days and the flavor gets even better with a day for the flavors to combine.

Can I make pepperonata in the slow cooker?

Absolutely! Just add everything to your slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours until the peppers and onions are soft and tender. If you are worried about the vegetables burning, add 1/4-1/2 cup of vegetable broth to the bottom of the slow cooker.

Pepperonata in a bowl with red, green, and yelllow pepper with fresh herbs.
The Recipe
Pepperonata with bell peppers, sweet onion, Roma tomatoes, and garlic in a bowl with fresh basil and spices.


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  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced into strips
  • 2 yellow bell peppers, sliced into strips
  • 2 green peppers, sliced into strips
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced thin (half circles)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. oregano
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 1 lemon

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Heat the olive oil over medium high heat.


Add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until beginning to brown.


Add the peppers and reduce heat. Cook for 12-15 minutes until beginning to brown and tender. If anything begins to burn, add 1-2 tbsp. of water.


Add the garlic, oregano, sugar, vinegar, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.


Serve with basil.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 3/4 cup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 138
Calories from Fat 53
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 6g
Saturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 14mg
Total Carbohydrate 20g
Dietary Fiber 4g
Sugars 12g
Protein 3g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
On Pepperonata
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Alison farrow
July 5, 2022 - 05:14
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This is such a versatile recipe and we have tried it in all the ways described above. I often use a tin of chopped tomatoes instead of fresh and it is just as delicious. I usually cook it for longer than Kristen suggests too .
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April 30, 2022 - 12:41
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Absolutely delicious. You forgot, however, to mention the use for the lemon! Same with salt and pepper, but these are easy to figure out.
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August 21, 2021 - 02:56
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Fantastic recipe! Second time I’ve made it we love it!
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February 21, 2020 - 19:28
What do you do with the lemon?
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