Peperoncino Calabrese: Not Just a Seasoning … A Way of Life

Calabrians are known throughout Italy as good ‘ole southern folks … a tad paesani, maybe but generous people who produce some of the best food in Italy.

Mushrooms … eggplant … sausage … ahhh, Calabria.

However, La Cucina Calabrese is actually pretty simple. According to many of the chefs here, the more simple the dish – the better it will be.

There are a few staple ingredients used in almost all of the recipes we reproduce.

>> Olive Oil
>> Garlic
>> Peppers

 In fact, I’m trying to think of a recipe that doesn’t include at least one red – or green bumba. This one and this one do, for sure.

We had a semi-crisis at casa mia last year when we ran out of fresh peppers but luckily the stores stock ’em, too. This year we planted four plants and man are these suckers spicy. In fact, I learned a new expression after we added them to our homemade pizza earlier this year.

 Focu meu!!!

Focu meu is Calabrese dialect and it literally means “my fire” but actually translates more as “This F*!!#@ bomb is exploding inside my mouth – somebody save meeeee!!!” … or something like that.

Do you like hot peppers? Where did you find the hottest pepper you’ve ever had? What are you favorite spicy dishes?

10 Responses
  1. LOL ‘Focu meu’ I burst out laughing at that. My grandmother used to say it when she was shocked at something!
    I, having Calabrian parents LOVE ‘i piperei’ as they are called in their village.
    We had them in our garden in Australia, and I’d think nothing of eating them plain with some bread even though my lips would numb.
    In Positano, I have come across quite a few pensioners who will carry them around in their pockets, even at the beach. Maybe your bus companion on the Amalfi Coast had the natural Viagra in his pocket…
    HE *was* from Calabria! lol
    Scintilla’s last blog post..Phantom Neighbours.

  2. carol

    Hi Cherrye,
    What I’d like to know is…..Is that an official spelling(focu meu), or did you just write it phonetically? Does dialect have a written version?
    Nope. That is the spelling. The Calabrese dialect is a real language, with poems, books and songs all written in Calabrese. I, of course, have to ask P for clarification when I write anything in dialect!!

  3. I love spicy food — I always have crushed red pepper – it’s a staple spice. And I often buy serranos or jalapenos or thai peppers (the three easiest types to find in WDC) for dishes 🙂
    oooh, jalapenos would be nice. But crushed red pepper IS a staple.
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  4. C-

    I love peppers, just not hot peppers. My tummy and mouth can’t take ’em. Chris on the other hand loves them. I often blame his bald head on his love for hot food- synges the hair right off his noggin’
    Ha… poor thing…
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  5. The hottest dish I ever ate was at a dinner party in Calabria. The hostess decided that me and my American friends needed to be initiated into the grand tradition of fiery Calabrian cuisine, so she made a standard dish of pasta con pomodoro, and set an innocuous-looking, small green pepper beside each of our plates and told us to cut them up into our pasta. We were expecting something along the lines of a jalapeño in terms of spiciness, but we were all breathing fire and gulping water after two bites. One of my friends even got a nosebleed, it was so hellishly hot.

    Now I’m all nostalgic for Calabrian cooking.
    Wow. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to laugh at your poor friend, but that is priceless. My husband actually made a simple pasta and mussels dish last night with that “simple-looking” green pepper. Dio Mio …
    Sean’s last blog post..Friendship in a Digital Age

  6. Love ’em. If you eat some chillies everyday the capsaicin will prevent pain or lessen it. It may also help with heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
    The hottest hot thing I ever ate was a pepper sauce a work mate from Trinidad made to her grandmother’s recipe. It was bright yellow and could burn holes in asphalt. I called it “One Drop Sauce” and used it for years. Nothing would have dared try to grow in it or on it. I had always wanted to go to Trinidad, but after that sauce I decided I probably couldn’t afford to take the chance.
    Wow. Holes in asphalt, eh?? Not sure I could handle that one, either. I *love* spicy food, but I can’t handle it when it overpowers. Is it hotter than that green stuff you eat with sushi??
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