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Capsicum -Chili - Peperoncino - Il Viagra Calabrese - Calabria - Italy - July 17th 2013 - 02.jpg
Peperoncini for sale at a market of Tropea in Calabria, Italy
Heat Hot
Scoville scale15,000–30,000 SHU

Peperoncino (Italian: [peperonˈtʃiːno]; plural peperoncini [-ni]; sometimes spelled pepperoncino or pepperoncini in English)[a] is the generic Italian name for hot chili peppers, specifically the cultivars of the species Capsicum annuum and Capsicum frutescens.[2] The sweet pepper is called peperone (plural peperoni) in Italian.[3]


The peperoncino probably came to Italy in the early 16th century, subsequent to Christopher Columbus having taken samples from the New World to Europe in 1492. Like the tomato, the peperoncino was first considered a decorative and possibly poisonous plant before it was adopted into Italian cuisine. It might have become popular as a food long before the cookbooks attest to its use. These cookbooks were written for the upper classes, while the peperoncino was a cheap and convenient food for the lower classes.[2]

Pietro Andrea Mattioli first described peperoncini in 1568 and mentioned how much hotter they were than other varieties of pepper from Asia. Peperoncino was used in a cookbook recipe for the first time in 1694, by the Neapolitan cook Antonio Latini. In his recipe for Salsa alla Spagnola chopped peperoncini, tomatoes and some onion are combined with peppermint, salt and oil, to be served as a relish.[4]

Culinary use[edit]

Crushed peperoncini sold at a market in Syracuse, Sicily

In Italian cuisine peperoncini are used with moderation and the flavour is considered more important than the heat. As a consequence the Scoville rating serves only as a rough guide to the heat, which is quite varied among the different cultivars.[5]

The peperoncino is especially important in Calabrian cuisine. In late summer, peperoncini are stitched on wires and hung from buildings. They are left to dry in spots with sunlight and ventilation to conserve them, allowing their use in cooking until the next harvest. They are eaten whole, fried until crisp, crushed, pickled, powdered or as a paste.[6] A typical peperoncino from Calabria rates 15,000[7] to 30,000[8] on the Scoville scale.

Notable Calabrian dishes which use peperoncini are the condiment Bomba Calabrese and the spreadable pork sausage 'Nduja. It is also used in dishes of other regional cuisines of Southern and Central Italy, such as the Roman Arrabbiata sauce.

The most common way pepperoncino, aka pepperoncini, is served especially outside of Italy is pickled. Making pepperoncini is a relatively simple process involving pickling the fresh peppers in a combination of water, apple cider vinegar, salt, bay leaves, garlic, and peppercorns. First, the pepperoncini peppers are slit down the middle and then stored in the pickling brine for at least three days for the pickle to set in.[9]


Since 1992 the annual Peperoncino Festival has been held in the town of Diamante in Calabria. Organized by the Accademia Italiana del Peperoncino, the festival now attracts tens of thousands of visitors. It is held for four days surrounding the first weekend of September on the town's seaside promenade. The festival has a large market where local food products made with peperoncini are sold and hosts a peperoncino-eating contest.[10]


  1. ^ These English names may also be used to refer to the friggitello, a specific sweet cultivar of Capsicum annuum.[1]


  1. ^ Iannotti 2011, p. 151.
  2. ^ a b Riley 2007, p. 124.
  3. ^ Sinclair 1998, p. 404; Orsini 2015, p. 49.
  4. ^ Riley 2007, p. 124–125.
  5. ^ Riley 2007, p. 126.
  6. ^ Bastianich & Manuali 2009, p. 324.
  7. ^ Bressanini 2005.
  8. ^ Farnetti 2015.
  9. ^ "Pepperoncini: The Complete Guide and Delicious Recipes - Slender Kitchen". Slender Kitchen. Retrieved 2018-09-17.
  10. ^ DeWitt 2014, p. 91–92.


Bastianich, Lidia Matticchio; Manuali, Tanya Bastianich (2009). Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy: A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes. New York City, New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780307273413.
Bressanini, Dario (2005). "Tutti i gradi del peperoncino". Università dell'Insubria.
DeWitt, David (2014). Precious Cargo: How Foods From the Americas Changed The World. Berkeley, California: Counterpoint. ISBN 9781619023888.
Farnetti, Walter (27 February 2015). "La classifica dei peperoncini più piccanti del mondo". Agrodolce.
Iannotti, Marie (2011). The Beginner’s Guide to Growing Heirloom Vegetables: The 100 Easiest-to-Grow, Tastiest-to-Eat Vegetables for Your Garden. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. ISBN 9781604693843.
Orsini, Joseph (2015). Italian Family Cooking: Unlocking A Treasury Of Recipes and Stories. Macmillan. ISBN 9781466892002.
Riley, Gillian (2007). The Oxford Companion to Italian Food. New York City, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198606178.
Sinclair, Charles Gordon, ed. (1998). International Dictionary of Food and Cooking. Chicago, Illinois: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. ISBN 9781579580575.

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