Traditionally, Romans have always been very keen on market garden produce, providing the essential ingredients for simple, rustic dishes. In fact, throughout the nineteenth century, vegetable gardens could be found everywhere in Rome. The most well-known areas were Greco alla Quattro Fontane and the various vegetable plots at the Circo Massimo. When the Germans occupied Rome, the gardens were shifted to the outskirts. The vegetables cultivated were broad beans, chicory, mixed-leaf salad, artichokes and, of course, peppers.
These, as they ripened, were, until October, the ingredients of Rome’s traditional summer and autumn cuisine. The pepper – red, yellow or green – is a multi-form plant originating in the Americas. The pepper of Pontecorvo, in the province of Frosinone, belonging to the “Capsicum annum” species and known as the “Cornetto di Pontecorvo” has received DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) status as a prime-quality regional speciality. Since 1830 – when the Principality of Pontecorvo came under the rule of the Holy See – this pepper has found here an ideal environment in the slightly calcareous soil of the area of Frosinone, not to mention the mitigating effects of the sea. You’ll spot this pepper immediately on the market stalls. It’s red. The skin and pulp are thin. It presents as a lengthened cylinder.
The fragrance is vegetal. The flavour is marked, sweet but pungent. It has many uses in the kitchen. It is excellent, raw, in salads, vegetable dips and sweet-and-sour preparations. Cooked, it is an excellent accompaniment for second course dishes. In the kitchen, our choice is tradition! The following is a classic Roman dish which is popular during the Ferragosto family feast day. This dish can also be served cold, always followed by a slice of ice-cold watermelon. We propose “pollo alla romana con i peperoni” (Roman-style chicken with peppers). And remember what Ada Boni says in her book on Roman cuisine, “La cucina romana” – when cooking “peperone in padella” (pepper sauté), Roman-style, the pepper has got to be green. As we said, in the kitchen, our choice is tradition. So let’s roll up our sleeves!
Recipe: Roman-style chicken with peppers
Ingredients for 4
•1 chicken cut into 8 pieces
•50 g ham
•1 clove of garlic
•1 spoonful of fresh marjoram
•1/2 glass of white wine
•3 or 4 tomatoes (medium-size)
•4 green peppers
•10 cl of Extra Virgin olive oil
•Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions In a pan, sauté the ham in 2 spoonfuls of oil. Add the chicken and brown it. When golden brown, add salt and pepper to taste. Then add a crushed clove of garlic, the marjoram (finely chopped) and half a glass of wine. When the wine has evaporated, add the tomatoes (peeled, with no seeds and diced).
Please remember: use a high flame. If the dish dries out, add water. Roast the peppers separately. When ready, skin them and slice them length-wise into 2-cm wide strips (remove all seeds). Heat an onion in a pan with oil. When the onion begins to turn, add the peppers and salt to taste while lowering the flame (leave to simmer under a lid for 20 minutes or so). When tender and flavoursome, your peppers are ready to be added to the chicken. Mix in carefully and serve hot or cold.
Where? Chicken with peppers is a traditional recipe. Various versions are to be found on the menus of restaurants during the pepper season.
But you’ll have to hunt it down!
• Enoteca Corsi, via del Gesù 88/87, Rome. Tel. 06 6790821
• L’ Osteria di Monteverde, via Pietro Cartoni 163-165, Rome. Tel. 0653273887
• Osteria del Velodromo vecchio, via Genzano 119, Rome. Tel 067886793