Papaccelle are a Slow Food-protected member of the pepper family typical of the Cilento area of Campania. For his Papaccelle, producer Franco Vastola has recreated his wife’s special recipe: he steams the peppers with a drop of high quality white wine vinegar, and jars them along with a few olives, garlic, anchovies, a pinch of sugar, and farmer-made velvety real extra virgin olive oil. The result is the perfect balance of the sweetness of the peppers, the acidity of the vinegar, and the richness of the oil.
What's perhaps most striking about Papaccelle peppers is the way Franco has managed to preserve the tenderness of the peppers, retaining a pleasant, almost ‘al dente’ chewiness that allows the peppers to stand on their own as a flavorful side dish. Franco likes to pair his peppers with the traditional dishes of his region’s cuisine, including pork roast and baccalà, but they will shine alongside any cut of meat or fish. Or, enjoy them on their own as an antipasto, perhaps with a thick slice of country sourdough to savor every drop of the delicious olive oil.
Franco first fell in love with Papaccelle for their distinctively intense aroma; sweeter and more fragrant than ordinary bell peppers, they are also more digestible. The small, ribbed, slightly flattened-looking peppers are harvested by hand from the beginning of September to the end of October. Because of their intense colors – bright yellow shading to green, or deep red shading to orange - they could be confused for hot peppers, were it not for their strikingly sweet flesh. Along with the Slow Food Presidium, Franco has worked to recover the original seeds of this rare pepper, and follow strict environmental standards in their production. Thanks to their efforts, Papaccelle have returned to the markets of Naples, as have the traditional pickled peppers, the key ingredient in the Neapolitan Christmas dish known as “insalata di rinforzo.”