I-ATE Food Term of the Week: Friggitelli Peppers (Friggitelli, Peperoncini Verdi or Puparuoli Friarielli)

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Friggitelli peppers are one of the most typical and popular side dishes of Naples and the Campania region. They are small sweet peppers with an elongated shape of about 6 cm. Despite their shape similar to that of hot peppers, their flavour is sweet and only slightly bitter. This kind of pepper belongs to the Capsicum annum variety of the Solonaceae family. The cultivation of friggitello peppers mainly takes place in the Agro-Sarnese Nocerino territory of Campania and requires very careful care. Friggitelli are usually harvested and marketed in the summer months, when their colour takes on a deep green hue, i.e. when they are not yet fully ripe. They are low-calorie vegetables, rich in vitamins (A, B and C) and minerals such as magnesium and potassium, which also provide a good supply of water and fibre. They are therefore ideal for consumption in many dietary regimes including the vegan diet.  

Frigitelli Side Picture 1

Visually, friggitelli are slightly similar to Mexican jalapenos. In fact, peppers are one of those foods that Europeans only began to appreciate and enjoy after the discovery of the Americas. In his first expedition Christopher Columbus brought to Spain from the Antilles the Caribbean axí, progenitor of all the pepper and chilli varieties that are cultivated around the world today. Columbus mentions axí in his ship’s log book, calling it pepper as it recalls its spicy taste. Starting in the late 17th century, the term peperone, derived from the Latin piperu(m) meaning ‘pepper’, began to spread in Italy. In Naples, on the other hand, peppers were identified by the dialect term puparuolo, or as puparuolo d’o ciumm, which can be translated as ‘river peppers’ probably referring to the proximity of the cultivation area to the Sarno river, or even with the syntagma puparuolo friariello, meaning “peppers to be fried”. In many areas of Campania today they are referred to by the term friariello alone, but not in Naples where instead the word friariello indicates the inflorescence of broccoli, which is another important Neapolitan product and side dish. Nowadays in Naples, friggitelli are also called peperoncini verdi (meaning “green chillies”). As the consumption of Campania’s green chillies spread to the rest of the peninsula, the dialect word friariello became the Italian friggitello. We find friggitelli not only in the kitchens of southern and central Italy but also in Portugal and China. In Spain, on the other hand, there are very similar vegetables called pimientos de Padrón. But beware, unlike friggitelli, which are always sweet, among the pimientos you occasionally find some spicy ones.

Frigitelli Side Picture 2

When it comes to cooking, friggitelli are very versatile, since they can be enjoyed as a side dish for both meat and fish, and can also be used to season pasta. They can be stuffed, baked in the oven but it is their very name, as we have seen, that indicates the tastiest cooking method, i.e., frying. Here is the traditional recipe for cooking these delicious vegetables. After washing and drying the friggitelli well, pour them without removing the seeds into a frying pan with plenty of hot oil. Once cooked, collect them on a plate. Meanwhile, in another pan, fry a clove of garlic and add chopped cherry tomatoes. When the sauce has reduced, pour in the previously fried friggitelli and sauté them for a few minutes together with the cherry tomatoes. When cooked, add a few basil leaves and get ready to fall in love with this bitter-sweet side dish.


References:

Boccardo, Giovanni Battista, “Friggitelli. Storia e preistoria del peperone di fiume” in Massimo Arcangeli, Peccati di lingua, Soveria Mannelli, Rubbettino Editore, 2019.

Briganti, Mara. 2009. Il dilemma linguistico dei peperoncini dolci: friggitelli o friarelli? [ONLINE] Available at:  https://www.ilgiornaledelcibo.it/il-dilemma-linguistico-dei-peperoncini-dolci-friggitelli-o-friarelli [Accessed 3 August 2022].

Carballeira. Pimientos de Padrón: ¿Por qué unos pican y otros no?. [ONLINE] Available at:  https://www.carballeira.com/pimientos-de-padron-unos-pican-y-otros-no/ [Accessed 3 August 2022].

Cibo360. Friggitelli o friarelli. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.cibo360.it/alimentazione/cibi/verdura/friggitelli.htm [Accessed 3 August 2022].

Cookaround. Peperoncini Verdi fritti. [ONLINE] Available at:  https://www.cookaround.com/ricetta/peperoncini-verdi-fritti.html [Accessed 3 August 2022].

Di Meo, Gina. 2020. Friggitelli, the Southern Italian Sweet Green Chili Peppers: Chef’s Recipe. [ONLINE] Available at:  https://www.lacucinaitaliana.com/trends/restaurants-and-chefs/friggitelli-the-southern-italian-sweet-green-chili-peppers-chefs-recipe [Accessed 3 August 2022].

Ferrari, Giulia. 2017. Friggitelli: proprietà nutrizionali. [ONLINE] Available at:  https://www.greenstyle.it/friggitelli-proprieta-nutrizionali-221062.html [Accessed 3 August 2022].

Pepper Geek. 2021. Friggitello Peppers – The Sweet Italian Peperoncino. [ONLINE] Available at:  https://peppergeek.com/friggitello-peperoncini-peppers/ [Accessed 3 August 2022].

Rachel Roddy. 2019. Rachel Roddy’s recipe for friggitelli peppers with tomatoes. [ONLINE] Available at:  https://www.theguardian.com/food/2019/aug/26/rachel-roddy-friggitelli-peppers-with-tomatoes-recipe [Accessed 3 August 2022].

Sebastiani, Loretta. Italian friggitelli sweet peppers with tomatoes. [ONLINE] Available at:  https://theitaliantaste.com/italian-cooking/verdure/peperoni/pepper_003_sweet-pepper-friggitelli-with-tomatoes.php [Accessed 3 August 2022].


Written by Massimiliano Marino

He is a PhD student in “European Languages and Specialised Terminology” at the University of Naples “Parthenope”.