Antipasti are, for me, the best part of a Piedmontese meal. At any family gathering (and in restaurants as well), the platters of different antipasti just never stop coming. And at some point in the procession, roasted peppers stuffed with tuna will arrive at the table. The combination of sweet, meaty peppers and well-seasoned oil-cured tuna is always delightful.
In Piemonte, cooks are discriminating about the peppers they roast, and most sought are those from Carmagnola, a town in the countryside south of Torino. Carmagnola peppers are justly famous, for wonderful flavor as well as their vivid colors and distinctive shapes, like the corno di bue (ox horn) and trottola (spinning top). Carmagnola also is well known for il coniglio grigio di Carmagnola—the gray rabbit from Carmagnola—considered to be one of the best in Italy.
Here in the States, any fresh, meaty sweet bell-type peppers are suitable— different colors make a nice presentation. And peppers are always best roasted and peeled at home, though a jar of roasted red peppers can be substituted if you are short on time. (If you have no peppers at all, this tuna filling is delicious on crostini or crackers—it makes a world-class tuna-fish sandwich too.)
- 3 or 4 sweet red or assorted-color peppers (about 1½ pounds total)
- 1/3 cup or so extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or to taste
- Two 6-ounce cans tuna packed in olive oil (preferably imported from Italy)
- 2 small anchovy fillets, drained and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons small capers, drained and finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon apple-cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
Preheat the oven to 350°. Rub the peppers all over with 2 tablespoons olive oil, season with ¾ teaspoon salt, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes or so, turning the peppers occasionally, until their skins are wrinkled and slightly charred.
Let the peppers cool completely. Slice in half (through the stem end), discard the stem, peel off the skin, and slice the halves lengthwise into strips 2 inches wide. Scrape the seeds from the strips, and lay them in a sieve to drain and dry.
To make the stuffing, drain the tuna and break it into flakes in a medium-sized bowl. One at a time, mix the seasonings into the tuna with a fork: chopped anchovies, capers, vinegar, mustard, mayonnaise, parsley, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and about ½ teaspoon salt. Stir vigorously, breaking up lumps of fish, until the stuffing is soft and fairly smooth. Add more of any seasoning to taste.
Drop a scant tablespoon of stuffing at one end of each roast pepper strip and roll it up snugly, creating a neat cylinder. Press the pepper as you wrap, so it adheres to itself and stays closed.
To serve, arrange all the rolls on a platter, drizzle a bit more olive oil all over, and sprinkle lightly with coarse salt.
This recipe serves 6.