Why Hot Pepper Oil?
In Italian restaurants in the United States, we often see red pepper flakes on the table and of course we use it to spice up our pizza, spaghetti, or whatever Italian dish we’re having. But in Italy, we noticed that many restaurants had Hot Pepper Oil on the tables instead, and we found ourselves liking it better than red pepper flakes. It spreads the flavor out a bit, and you don’t get the sudden shock of biting into a red pepper flake. Leave it to the Italians to find another great way to use extra virgin olive oil in their meals. Since we enjoyed it so much, I decided to make some, and it couldn’t be simpler.
Making Hot Pepper Oil
Simply take an appropriate bottle (I save the bottles that we get balsamic vinegar in because they’re nicely sized and have a nice pouring spout/cap combination) and sterilize in boiling water or the dishwasher. Also buy or grow some small hot peppers. I grew one plant of Thai hot pepper this year, and what you see in the picture is about half of the hot peppers we got from that one plant – you don’t need many plants.
Wash the hot peppers, let the peppers dry out thoroughly (as in sun-dried or dehydrated – they should look crinkled and dry before you use them), and add 20 or so to the bottle. If you make a small slit in the peppers before adding them to the bottle, you can speed up the infusion process – but in these photos I didn’t slit the peppers.
Add extra virgin olive oil (you probably don’t need a great extra virgin olive oil for this, because it’s going to get hot and you may not be able to tell that it’s a great olive oil) and wait. When you first add the oil, the peppers will float to the top, but as they fill with oil they’ll gradually sink to the bottom of the bottle. After several weeks, the oil will begin tasting spicy, and eventually will be quite spicy. Use to shake on pizza, pasta, and anything that you’d like to kick up a notch (as Emeril would put it). These might also make nice homemade hostess or Christmas gifts.