Italian Style Roasted Peppers and Onions with Pine Nuts and Grappa

When I call this “Italian Style,” I am not kidding. I got this recipe while standing in line at the Aptos Farmers Market from two elderly Italian women. Their conversation was a pastiche of both English and Italian, and finally I just asked them for the recipe because it sounded so good. They were happy to share it with a “nice young boy”…

The recipe is about balance of flavors, and the quantities are approximate. The onion is the baseline of flavor, the peppers are the high notes. The sweetness of both links them in the middle and the raisins and pine nuts round out the flavors.


1 large brown onion
1 EACH large red, yellow, green bell peppers; roasted, peeled and seeded
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup raisins
2 tablespoons grappa
1 big pinch of coarse salt such as Maldon or kosher
1 tablespoon olive oil


Put the raisins into the grappa and macerate until ready to use.

Slice the onion in half through the equator and cook over open flame or under broiler until the cut side is blackened and charred. Turn to char the rest of the onion lightly. When it is cool enough to handle without burning yourself, scrape the char from the onion.

Slice the onion through the ends, peel and slice into half moons.

Slice the pepper into strips.

Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and when hot, add the onions. When they are softened, add the pepper strips, and toss to mix. Cook to warm.

Drain the raisins, then toss into the pan and mix in. Add the pine nuts and mix in. Sprinkle with salt. The dish is ready to use.

  • Use on pizza with fresh mozzarella and Italian sausage, or ribbons of prosciutto. Sage is a great herb to use here.
  • It is good made without the raisins, substituting olives. Also without raisins it is good in pasta – use something sturdy. 
  • This is good mixed with a sturdy green such as sautéed Lacinato or curly kale.
  • Use in a salad with the pepper, nut, raisin mix and arugula dressed with a light vinaigrette.
  • This makes an excellent topping for chicken- sear a boneless skinless chicken breast on one side, flip and add some white wine, the top with the pepper onion mix and finish in the oven.
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