Peppers first landed on Italian shores in the 1500s, likely coming from Northern Africa to Sicily. They went on to influence southern Italian cuisine for centuries. Now, peppers are grown and used widely across the entirety of Italy (and Europe!). One of the descendants of the earliest peppers brought to Italy are Friggitello peppers, and they are now widely available to eat and grow.
Friggitello peppers come from the species Capsicum annum, home to the most common varieties. These include bell, jalapeno, and cayenne peppers, among many others. Like most Italian peperoncini, Friggitelli are mild peppers. In fact, this variety has no heat at all, meaning that Friggitello peppers are a purely sweet pepper variety.
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Friggitello Pepper Characteristics
Different pepper varieties can have vastly different characteristics. Some plants produce many peppers, while others will only produce a handful. Here are a few quick details on the Friggitello pepper:
Shape: Pendant, elongated
Color: Green, turning red when ripe
Length: 3-4 inches
Width: 1-1.25 inches
Heat level: 0 SHUs (no heat)
Grow period: 70 days after transplanting
Plant height: 2 feet
Buy seeds: On Amazon
Given these characteristics, it makes a lot of sense that Friggitelli are common in Italy. Many people don’t like spicy food, so a sweet pepper is more accessible to the masses. In addition to these facts, the Friggitello plant produces lots of pepper pods, so growing them is more profitable for farmers.
Fun Fact: Peperoncini simply means ‘chili peppers’ in Italian. It is also a pepper variety that is commonly pickled in its unripe form.
Friggitello Pepper Scoville rating
Since friggitello peppers have no heat at all, they register 0 SHUs on the Scoville scale. Some related Italian pepper varieties have mild heat levels, such as peperoncini peppers. However, they are still considered mild at just 100-500 SHUs on the Scoville scale. As a result, Italian chefs commonly use cayenne peppers in order to spice up tomato sauces and other dishes.
Friggitelli Uses in Cooking
Friggitello peppers are widely used for appetizers (or antipasti). You may roast them with feta and olives, or maybe fry them with tomato, garlic, and basil. Like any pepper, they are versatile and are large enough to be stuffed or ‘popped’ like jalapenos. They are also commonly used in salads.
Friggitello peppers are heatless, which means that if you want your meal to be spicy, you’ll have to turn elsewhere. In Italian cuisine, the cayenne pepper is commonly used for this purpose, but you can pick from the long list of hot pepper varieties.
Other Italian Pepper Varieties
In North America, peperoncini (or pepperoncini) is well known as a pickled, light green pepper with mild heat. Often found in fresh salads at Italian and Greek restaurants, they add a nice tang. However, the word peperoncino literally means ‘chili pepper’ in Italian. Here are a few other peperoncini varieties available to buy or grow.
Longer and skinnier than the Golden Greeks, these Italian sweet peppers are great for adding to fresh salsa. With no heat, these can work in place of Friggitellos. They turn from a pale green to a bright red when fully ripe. Seeds are much easier to find, like on Amazon!
Likely the most common of all Italian peppers, the peperoncini pepper has a mild heat level and a sweet flavor. With significantly less heat than even a jalapeno pepper, the peperoncini is palatable to most. There is a reason this pepper variety shares its name with the word for ‘chile pepper’ in Italian! A true classic, commonly used for pickling when the peppers are underripe. Try growing them with seeds here.
Another rare variety, this pepper is known as the ‘Cigarette Pepper.’ Used similarly in cuisine, this Italian pepper grows to around 4 inches in length. It also has a spindly, curled shape when fully grown. The Sigaretto di Bergamo pepper has no heat, so it is great for mild Italian salads or stir fry. Grab some seeds from Amazon here.
Golden Greek (Friarelli)
Difficult to find, though some say they are very similar to Japanese shishito peppers. If you are looking for this pepper, it seems safe to substitute shishitos. Friarelli peppers have a mild heat level and grow to be up to 5 inches in length. Great for pickling, stuffing or frying.
How To Pickle Friggitello Peppers
Pickling peppers is perhaps our favorite method for preservation. Friggitellos and all other peperoncini are commonly pickled. If you’re looking for an authentic, simple method, use these instructions. For a more detailed method for pickling peppers, read our article on pickling jalapenos here.
- Friggitello peppers
- 3 cups white vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
How To Pickle Friggitello Peppers
- Choose slightly unripe peppers.
Traditionally, peperoncini are pickled before they reach full ripeness (while the peppers are still green). This is not necessary, but the peppers will have a slighty more tart flavor.
- Clean peppers.
Rinse your peppers under cool tap water. Dry.
- Poke the peppers with a fork.
Pierce the peppers slightly with a fork. Don’t go overboard, just enough to allow the vinegar mixture to seep into the pepper’s skin.
- Add peppers to glass jars.
Fill the jars to about an inch from the top. You can remove the stems if desired, but they are typically left on.
- Boil vinegar, water, and salt.
Bring the vinegar, water, and salt to a boil in a pot. Shut off the heat once it begins boiling.
- Pour hot vinegar over friggitelli.
Pour the hot liquid over the peppers in jars. Leave about 1/2 inch of headspace, and mix peppers to allow any trapped air to release.
- Seal jars with metal lids and refrigerate.
Seal the jars and refrigerate. You can also leave them in a pantry for up to 2 months. The vinegar is highly acidic, acting as a preservative for the fresh peppers.
Friggitello peppers may not be a household name in North America, but in Italy, these peppers are part of history. They are part of a tightly-knit family of Capsicum annum peppers that date back to the introduction of peppers in Italy. Friggitellos and other peperoncini have a growing place in Greek and Italian food, and here at PepperGeek, we’re okay with that!