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.
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!
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.