CHIAVARI, Italy – The shiny red peppers and plump tomatoes in the market Saturday were irresistible, so I scooped them up, brought them home and made one of my favorite dishes, potatoes with peppers and tomatoes. With a grilled chicken breast, some crusty fresh baked bread and a little wine, lunch was a spectacular feast.
This dish, called the Three P’s in Italian, patate, pomodori e pepperoni, pepperoni being the Italian word for peppers, is more of a marriage of ingredients than a recipe. The flavors blend beautifully together but if you are thinking that a marriage of three is not possible, think ménage à trios, but whatever you want to call it, do give this dish a try.
You can use almost any type of potato and peppers of any color - red, yellow, orange, chocolate brown, ivory, deep purple or green, but the tomatoes have to be blood red, super ripe and juicy. You need juice from really juicy tomatoes to cook the potatoes and peppers, and those firm, green tinged tomatoes the Italians prefer for their salads just don’t cut it.
The success or failure of this dish relies entirely on the quality of the ingredients you use. If your Three P’s are ripe and full of flavor, if your olive oil is sweet and your onion isn’t so old it’s sprouting green shoots, your dish will be full of flavor as well.
There isn’t a region in Italy that doesn’t claim the Three P’s as their own, but the second recipe I’ve included is more of a southern dish. I don’t know if it even has a name, we always called it baked tomatoes because that’s what it is. The recipe is my mother’s, who got it from my grandmother, who got it from her mother when they all still lived in Italy. And once again it is such a simple dish to make I hesitate to even say it’s a recipe, but it’s so good how could I not include it?
But let’s start with the Three P’s.
Peperoni, Patate e Pomodori
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pound sweet bell peppers, seeds removed and cut into ½ inch strips
½ pound mature tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium red onion, sliced
extravirgin olive oil
1. Remove seeds from pepper, peel and cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch wide strips.
2. In a heavy sauté pan that can hold all the ingredients, put in the thinly sliced onions and olive oil, and turn to heat to medium. Cook, stirring until the onions wilt and become light gold in color, then add the sliced peppers. Cook for 3-4 min, stirring occasionally, then add the tomatoes with their juice, adjusting the heat to cook at a slow, but steady simmer.
3. While tomatoes are cooking, peel the potatoes, wash them in cold water, and cut into 1-inch cubes.
4. When the oil floats free of the tomatoes, add the potatoes, turn the heat down to very low, and cover the pan. Cook until the potatoes and peppers feel tender when prodded with a fork. While cooking, stir well from time to time bringing the vegetables on the bottom of the pan up to the top. Add salt and pepper to taste.
I have also made this dish with a can of whole tomatoes and had very good results.
Now for the baked tomatoes. This recipe really does not have set amounts, you can make as many or as few as you want. My mother and grandmother would make this dish whenever there was a bumper crop of tomatoes in the garden and they both used good size cookie trays to bake them on. Keep in mind that the tomatoes shrink as they bake, so you are going to end up with a lot less than you started with.
Lip Smacking Good Baked Tomatoes
Garlic cloves, peeled and sliced lengthwise into thin strips
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Sprinkle of sugar (optional)
Wash the tomatoes and cut them in half. Place them cut side up on a greased baking pan (like a cookie sheet), or you can cover the bottom of the baking pan with oven paper if you like.
Insert several slivers of garlic in each tomato half. Sprinkle with dried oregano, salt and pepper and a drizzle of extravirgin olive oil. If you want you can also give your tomatoes a very light sprinkle of sugar.
Bake in a pre-heated oven 150° C / 300° F for about one hour. The tomatoes will shrivel up, and taste the best when they are a little blacked around the edges. Let them cool and serve them at room temperature.