Recipes and Ramblings in Italy

Food Blog

Cooking Tip of the Week (927/2011)

Posted by Bill Abruzzo on September 21, 2011 at 3:15 PM

A Few Words About Cooking with Black Pepper and Crushed Dried Chili Flakes

       Salt and black pepper are the two basic components that bring life to any savory dish.  To put it simply, without these ingredients, any savory Italian dish will taste flat. In southern Italy, crushed dried chili flakes called "pepperoncino" are also added to savory dishes.  Crushed dried chili flakes add “heat”, whereas black pepper adds “bite”.  When used together, they add great depth and character to any savory recipe. When using crushed dried chili flakes or black pepper in a sautéed dish, I always add it while the onions and/or garlic are sautéing in olive oil. Allowing the pepper to sizzle in the oil  for a minute or two helps to develop the flavor.

       For the best quality and flavor, purchase whole peppercorns and grind them in a peppermill  as you cook. Pre-ground or pulverized black pepper will lose its bite while sitting in your spice rack. Hot dried chilies can be purchased whole and ground with a mortar and pestle as needed. The pre-crushed chili flakes tend to keep their flavor better than pre-ground black pepper.  However, if it sits in your cupboard too long, it will lose some of its zing.


Categories: Cooking Tips

Post a Comment


Oops, you forgot something.


The words you entered did not match the given text. Please try again.

Already a member? Sign In

1 Comment

Reply mariabella
5:14 PM on October 1, 2011 
Very interesting, thanks for this tip. You are absolutely right, using fresh peppercorns and grinding them as I cook really makes a difference in the flavor.

Update Your Status

Update your Recipes and Ramblings profile status!

Google Translator

Search The Site

What's New at Recipes and Ramblings


Twitter Follow Button

Facebook Fanpage Box

Private Cooking Classes

Cooking Classes

I offer private cooking classes for up to six people. Cooking classes are held in my home on Saturday evenings. I specialize in all aspects of Italian regional cuisine, including soups, vegetables, pasta, risotto, meat, seafood and desserts. I will design a cooking class around whatever interests you –whether it is a specific recipe you wish to learn or a skill such as pasta-making. For more details, please take a minute to become a member of my website and contact me via internal email at . 

Bill's Cooking Tip of the Month

Roll Out Pie Dough with Ease Using Plastic Wrap

This is an old trick I learned years ago from my mother. The next time you bake a pie, roll out the dough between sheets of plastic wrap. This will prevent the dough from sticking to your rolling pin and will make it easier to transport the dough from your work surface to the pie dish or baking sheet.

Cover your entire work surface with plastic wrap and sprinkle it lightly with flour. Turn the dough onto the wrap, pat it down to 1 inch thickness, sprinkle it lightly with flour, and then cover it with a second layer of wrap. Roll out the dough to just less than ¼ inch thickness and remove the top layer of wrap. Lift the dough using the bottom layer of wrap, turn it on to a lightly greased pie dish or baking sheet, and then remove the wrap. Its quick and easy! 

Tips on Italian Ingredients

 Frying Tomato Paste Enhances the Flavor and Adds Depth to Your Dish

Many recipes direct you to stir tomato paste into a sauce, soup or stew. However, frying the tomato paste first fully develops its flavor and eliminates any raw or metallic taste. It is a quick and easy way to enhance the flavor of your dish. Tomato paste should always be added at the beginning of a recipe, rather than at the end. This allows its flavor to marry with the dish. Add it immediately after sautéing your aromatics in olive oil or rendered fat. When the aromatics are soft, push them to one side of your pot or frying pan. Place a dollop of tomato paste on the other side, tilt the pot or frying pan to pool the oil around the tomato paste, and let it gently sizzle for about 2 minutes.  After the tomato paste has fried, incorporate it into the aromatics and then add the liquid and other ingredients to complete your sauce, soup or stew. 

Just Picked From My Italian Vegetable Garden!

 Zucchini Blossoms 

My Italian Heritage

 My Great Grandparents, Vita and Onofrio Abruzzo, from the town of Santa Margherita di Belice, Sicily pictured here with my grandfather Vito "Bill" in the center.

Great reads for the Italophile!

Coming Soon!

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day