Mens sana in corpore sano. A sound mind in a healthy body.
This Latin phrase, which originates from the 1st century Roman poet Juvenal’s Satire X and is attributed to the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Thales, reflects the symbiotic relationship between physical health and mental acuity.
Regrettably, Italian food in the U.S. has garnered a reputation for being the least healthy of our myriad of ethnic cuisines. Worse than Mexican, Chinese, or Middle Eastern. Italo-American food is too often characterized by pasta, cheese and tomatoes, rich sauces, cured meats and heaping bread baskets.
This is simply not what authentic Italian food is all about. Each region of Italy specializes in foods native to its land. Food is locally sourced, and quality is valued. Fresh fruits and vegetables are staple foods. Pasta is balanced by rice and other grains, and seafood and legumes are valued sources of protein, while meat is consumed more sparingly than it is stateside. Processed food is much less common, and homemade meals are prioritized.
With this in mind, this week’s recipe is a healthy, vegetable-based dish that Stefano’s mom Maria often makes. Although it is a simple recipe, peperonata is a flavorful and beautiful marriage of red and yellow peppers, potatoes and onions, cooked slowly until the vegetables yield and release their lovely flavors.
1 red pepper
1 orange pepper
1 yellow pepper
3 medium potatoes
1 small onion
1/2 cup strained tomatoes, such as Pomi
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt and Pepper to taste
Crushed red pepper, if desired
Peel the potatoes and chop them into half-inch cubes. Core and seed the peppers and cut them into one-inch square pieces. Chop the onion into half-inch to one-inch pieces.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the vegetables and sauté for 5 minutes. If you like a bit of heat, add a dash of crushed red pepper. When the onions and peppers soften pour in the white wine and strained tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and let cook for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. If needed, add a little water to the peperonata to prevent it from sticking, and turn the heat down. Remove the lid for the final five to ten minutes in order to allow any excess liquid to cook off.
Serve hot or at room temperature. Peperonata stores well in the refrigerator and can be reheated easily for several days.