Addictive Peperoni Cruschi

May 25, 2016 / Food & Wine
Senise, Basilicata

On our first foray into Lucania (the region of Basilicata, which locals still refer to by its ancient name) we were introduced to the local delicacy of peperoni cruschi (pronounced “crews-kee” – ed.) The dialect name is paparul crushk, a word that sounds harsher than most Italian words tend to be, but spells delicious whatever way they prefer to pronounce it.

The strings of peppers that you see hanging in the sun to dry are not as fiery as you might think. While they do like the piccante variety here, too, those are distinctly smaller and not as highly revered as these babies. The longer red peppers are, in fact, a variety of sweet peppers that are strung up much like the chile ristras so common around New Mexico, left to harden in the southern sun.

Sweet Senise peppers drying in the sun
Melfi chili peppers

Once dry they are carefully removed from their stems and fried in extra virgin olive oil, tended to watchfully so as not to scorch them. They are then served as an antipasto, and delicious they are, too! Sweet and smoky at the same time, the crunchy treats compliment the local cheese and prosciutto nicely. I warn you, they’re addictive!

Laurenzana peperoni crushi
Crispy peperoni cruschi as an appetizer

Once they are fried, the peperoni cruschi are also crumbled and added to sautéed breadcrumbs, which are then sprinkled over pasta, such as the locally-loved cavatelli.

A plate of fusilli with peperoni cruschi and bread crumbs topping

Valerie Schneider

by Valerie Fortney- Schneider

Through her company My Bella Basilicata Valerie uses her tourism industry experience to offer travel planning and on-site genealogy research in the Basilicata region. She is a freelance writer with magazine and website articles to her credit, adores cappuccino, and is an enthusiastic cook.

Valerie Fortney-Schneider

9 Responses to “Addictive Peperoni Cruschi”

  1. Cinders

    My Lucani in-laws had another delicious recipe. They put the peppers upright, using a triangular trivet, filled them with water, salt, garlic and salt, then placed them near the fire. When the water began to boil, they were ready to eat on bread. There were never enough!

  2. Susan Caracciolo Keane

    I can still smell these peppers frying in our kitchen in Brooklyn…the pungent hotness choking the air. My grandfather from Calabria would make these every year with the hottest peppers and give strings of them to all his children, my mother included. A piece of Italian bread and sometimes a fried egg would accompany them. I learned (and loved) to eat these at a very young age…thank you!

  3. Ginny Siggia

    What a beautiful sight, indeed like chile ristras. Against a cloudless turquoise sky, a medley of brilliant color. I am not brave when it comes to peppers, though I do appreciate the fire of capsicum against sore joints. However, there is hope. The local grocery store sells cherry peppers stuffed with a delicious creamy herbed cheese. These have just the right sweet/savory/hot bite for my palate, and this year I took the brave step of buying small cherry pepper plants. All things in good time, and this introduction to cruschi is tempting indeed. I love the description of the cavatelli plate.

  4. Ken Borelli

    What a surprise. That’s one of my favorite way of eating peppers, The dried fried peppers were a Sunday morning breakfast tradition. My father always had the patience to string them and did it all summer long, so we were never without them. After he passed away about 2 years ago, I realize I need to get this culinary tradition going again. This is very common in Calabria too. In fact I bought a New Mexico ristras several years ago, and took it home. It lasted about six months then I had to throw it away, but right next to them were my local sun dried peppers, and they were still good…..I think the New Mexico dried was kiln dried and not sun dried. It really makes a difference. I get my dried peppers from New Mexico, and the sun dried is always a little more in price. Interesting too is the spelling, I wrote a cook book called Flavors from a Calabrese Kitchen, and included the process for “ruschi” peppers, minus the “c”, since it was not pronnouced with a hard “r”, it was also used “a ruschatta”, like over the pasta crumpled. Thanks for the memories and i think spelling correction.

  5. Valerie

    Nice that this evoked such memories! The cruschi are perfect for those who don’t like spicy since they’re sweet peppers rather than “hot” chile, a treat that is crunchy like chips…but better! :)

  6. Paparul crusch got to Indiana as well all the way from Cirigliano, Basilicata. Still string ’em up every year. When crushed, they work well sprinkled over dried black olives.

    • Missourian here, where do you find the peppers? I’m having a hard time finding anything that would work.


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