Sunday Dinner

The Italian-Style Marinated Vegetables You'll Want to Eat on Everything

A chef's recipe inspired by his grandmother's cooking.

November 11, 2018

We're partnering with Lagostina to celebrate the Italian Sunday dinner with stories, recipes, and videos about this special family tradition. Here, Nick Perkins—chef and owner of Hart’s and Cervo’s in New York City—shares a simple, make-ahead recipe inspired by his grandmother’s cooking.

Food was a big part of my life growing up in Chicago. We always sat down for meals; long dinners were the norm in our family. My mom’s side of the family is Italian, so she cooked a lot of the food that she grew up eating. My dad also did a lot of the cooking and spent a lot of time with my grandmother, really learning and documenting her recipes.

Every summer, my parents would ship me and my brothers off to Trieste, a medium-sized town in Italy’s northeast, where our grandparents lived six months out of the year. It gave me a deep appreciation for Northern Italian food, and that's where I have always gravitated towards with my own cooking. Italy is also where I first started cooking professionally, when I was in Milan doing a study abroad program.

Now that I own two restaurants—Hart’s in Bedstuy and Cervo’s in the Lower East Side—I still love cooking for family and friends. I think cooking for people is a tender thing to do. When friends and family or people I know come into the restaurant, it lights me and everyone else up a little bit.

These roasted and marinated red peppers—shown here in a Lagostina pan—are delicious on a crostini with ricotta cheese. Photo by Ty Mecham

But when you're cooking for company or having people over to your house outside of a restaurant setting, it's nice to be able to prepare as much as you can ahead of time. This is something I learned from my grandmother, who used to cook for a few hours during the day, then let everything sit and marinate. She’d put time and energy into the meal beforehand, and cook things that will do well over time or even get better over time. It frees you up to hang out with your guests as opposed to trying to put the finishing touches on a dish or pull something out of the oven or carve up this or that. Whatever you can do ahead of time to be ready and spend more time with folks is the ideal.

This marinated peppers dish is inspired by that idea. Marinated vegetables are something you see a lot in Italian cooking, and we used to eat a lot of them in our family. This version in particular I made for friends this past summer, and we’ve been doing similar dishes in the restaurants a lot lately.

That’s because it kind of works with anything: It’s great on toast as a crostini, it’s great with meat and cheese as part of an antipasto situation. At Hart’s it’s the kind of thing we would serve over ricotta. It’s also delicious as a condiment with any meat or fish. You could toss it with with oiled Yukon gold potatoes and a few slices of anchovy, too. You could have it hot, cold, you could have it on a sandwich. It's up to you! As long as you can find time to make it and put love into it, then it will be good for days to come.

Here are a few tips for pulling the peppers together for a Sunday dinner, or anytime:

  • Quality ingredients are key. This dish is perfect at the end of the summer, when peppers are really sweet and you can get really good tomatoes, onion, and garlic. But as long as you use the highest quality produce you can find, it’s special any time of year.
  • You can play around with the recipe to your own taste. I like to toss in a few whole very hot chiles, smashed, seeds and all. (The first time I made this, I think I used four whole chiles.) If you want it more or less spicy, you could keep them whole or remove some of the seeds. It’s up to you.
  • Cook the tomatoes just right. When you add them to the hot pan, you want to cook the tomatoes long enough so that they burst slightly and release a bit of juice, but not so long so that they start to lose their shape. You know the sauce is ready for the peppers when you have a juicy, oily, herby mess.
  • Without question, these peppers will taste better the next day. Whenever my grandmother would make a big family lunch featuring a dish like this, she would complain the whole time we were eating about how much better everything would taste the next day. You can definitely eat this dish the moment right after you make it, but like so many marinated vegetables dishes, it will only get better.

In partnership with Lagostina, the premium Italian cookware brand that values high-quality materials and time-honored craftsmanship, we're highlighting the #LagostinaSundayDinner with a new series all about the Italian tradition. Every Sunday, we'll share go-to Sunday recipes from some of our favorite chefs and cookbook authors.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Nick Perkins

Written by: Nick Perkins

Chef and owner of Hart's & Cervo's in NYC.

1 Comment

Smaug November 11, 2018
You could use this treatment with any number of peppers, naturally. Chile de Arbol would be a little bit of an odd choice- these peppers come almost completely dried right off the plant and are very hot; I would think something like a red jalapeno or Fresno chile would be a better choice. Note that the ribs in a pepper have much more to do with the heat than the seeds. I would personally find smoked paprika pretty jarring in this dish. I've given up on trying to find a consistent meaning for the word "chile/ chili"; apart from the dish (for which the term is also used pretty indiscriminately) there are people who use it for any sort of pepper at all, people who use it only for hot peppers, people who use it only for Mexican or Latin American peppers; I tend toward the last, but without consensus language is pretty useless.