Melrose Pepper Salad With Heirloom Tomatoes

tomatoes and peppers

If you’re from the Chicagoland area chances are you know all about Melrose peppers, the much loved and coveted heirloom peppers that are thinned skinned and extra sweet.

Each year in August they start to appear and word spreads quickly as to where they are. I’ve featured them several times over the years here on my blog, sometimes simply sautéed and sometimes stuffed but this will be my first time featuring them in a salad.

It’s the perfect time to make this salad with the summer abundance of perfectly ripe tomatoes and farm fresh Melrose peppers, it’s a match made in heaven!

farm fresh peppers

I realize not many people are familiar with Melrose peppers so let me give you a little background.

They came to be called Melrose peppers because as the story goes, many years ago a family from Calabria Italy eventually settled into a suburb of Chicago called Melrose Pk. They brought with them the seeds of this very special, thinned skinned sweet pepper. They quickly became popular among gardeners in the Italian community and then soon after that they started appearing in all the fruit and vegetable stands, and the rest is history. I was recently told that these peppers go by the name, peperoni di Senise.

If you can get your hands on them you’re in for a real treat!

If you’re unable to find them you can still make this recipe using those colored, mini sweet peppers, the ones you usually find in a bag.

pepper salad

This salad ticks all the flavor senses with layers of vine ripened heirloom tomatoes topped out with roasted Melrose peppers, briny olives, sharp cheese and sweet red onions, all you’ll need is a hunk of bread!

melrose pepper salad

I hope you recreate this Melrose pepper salad in your own home  this summer and become a devoted fan like me!

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Melrose Pepper Salad With Heirloom Tomatoes
Quantities are loosely stated which gives you the freedom to add more or less of what you like.
  • 2 large, ripe heirloom tomatoes, preferably different varieties.
  • 7 or 8 roasted Melrose peppers ( or mini sweet colored peppers if using them)
  • 8 oz. of asiago, fontinella or provolone cheese, small chop
  • ½ red onion, small dice
  • 2 handfuls each of kalamata and castelvetrano olives, sliced
  • fresh chopped basil
  • olive oil
  1. Rinse, dry and remove the stems and seeds from the peppers.
  2. Roast the peppers at 375F drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast them til tender and slightly golden, then cool them down.
  3. Slice the tomatoes and arrange them single layer on a nice platter and sprinkle with salt.
  4. Place the cooled down roasted peppers on top of the tomato slices.
  5. Scatter the sliced olives, onions and cheese all over and around.
  6. Add the chopped basil.
  7. Finish the salad off with a generous drizzle of good olive oil all over.
  8. Enjoy!



Stuffed Peppers Italian Style with Sausage and Mozzarella

melrose peppers Normally when you see a recipe for stuffed peppers you’ll see the bell shaped variety being used but I look forward to this time of year because a very special pepper starts to show up in Italian markets around Chicagoland, they’re called Melrose Peppers. I’ve done posts on them in the past like this one.

They came to be called Melrose peppers because as the story goes, many years ago a family from Calabria, Italy eventually settled into a suburb of Chicago called Melrose Pk. They brought with them the seeds of this very special, delicious thinned skinned pepper.They quickly became popular among gardeners in the Italian community and then soon after that they started appearing in all the fruit and vegetable stands, and the rest is history.

stuffing peppers Even though I’m featuring and stuffing my favorite Melrose peppers for this recipe, you can honestly use any type of elongated pepper such as a cubanelle or the sweet and long red pepper variety.

All you’re going to do is cut off the top then take a knife and make a slit down one side but not all the way, you still want the pepper to remain in tact, then just scoop out the seeds.

Then buy the best Italian sausage available, mine always has fennel and red pepper flakes for a little heat. If you can buy it in bulk go ahead, if not just remove it from the casing. Place it into a bowl then add a good amount of shredded mozzarella and mix well, that’s your stuffing!

stuffed peppers Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, then drizzle all over with olive oil and place your peppers onto it after you stuff them with the mixture.

stuffed peppers Then it’s a quick drizzle all over the top, add salt and pepper and place them into a 400 degree oven for about half an hour, depending on what type of pepper you’re using.

stuffed peppers You’re aiming for soft and tender and of course the sausage being fully cooked as well as seeing the cheese has melt.

stuffed peppersstuffed peppers When you’re ready to serve spoon some warm marinara over the top and onto the serving plate.

stuffed peppers The flavor combination is divine, this is stuffed peppers at it’s finest!

stuffed peppers

Add some crusty bread with a nice green salad and dinner is served!

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Melrose Peppers, It’s a Chicago Thing!

I couldn’t let summer fade away without posting about Melrose Peppers, a local variety of peppers that are at their peak right now. Back when I started my blog three years ago I think my second post was about Melrose Peppers, since then I have gotten numerous emails from fellow and former Chicagoans expressing their love for this humble pepper, just a couple of days ago I received this touching email from a man who pretty much sums up the feelings of so many regarding this delectable pepper, my family included!

“Oh Memories of “Ma” Josephine Selefski I have been having a craving for a few weeks now. Quietly searching and coming up empty. Feeling waves of anticipation, Similar to planning a wedding, birth of a child, your 21st birthday …Alas today. Today was the day! I found at the local grocery store “Melrose” peppers. Fresh succulent vine ripened tomatoes, fresh, still warm crispy crusty bread.

Sharp provolone cheese and pan oil roasted Melrose peppers, topped with a drizzle of vinegar and oil with Italian seasoning.Those of you who know the deliciousness … be aware the peppers are in season. As for those who don’t … I have to say my vocabulary is not large enough to explain. Think perhaps mouth- gasms. Ma turned this then young Polish kid into a Melrose pepper eating machine.

As I tore into this wonderful Sandwich, all I could do was close my eyes, savor the flavor and bow my head in thanks for that sweet woman that created so many great memories and introduced me to these flavors.

Thanks Ma, God bless you and keep you in his heart.”

Everyone has their own special way of making and preparing them that is near and dear to their hearts, my husband loves them simply sauteed in olive oil with a little red sauce added, he will make a whole meal out of them with some good crusty bread and a few hunks of provolone cheese!

On how they originated here the story goes like this, an Italian family immigrated to Melrose Pk, Il, which is a western suburb of Chicago, they brought with them the seeds of these tender and sweet thin skinned peppers.
They quickly became very popular among gardeners in the Italian community and then a local and very well loved fruit and vegetable market started selling them and made them extremely well known, and the rest is history!
Sometimes I like to change it up and stuff them, even though it’s time consuming it’s so worth it!
But ever since I discovered this seed and stem remover it’s made my life alot easier, it’s my new favorite gadget and I only payed $4.00 for it! Not only does it do a great job seeding and coring peppers, I use it to clean out the gills from portobello mushrooms, also great for seeding cucumbers and tomatoes and steming strawberries.

There are many ways to stuff Melrose Peppers, in the past I’ve used Italian sausage and fontina cheese, in this case I used Italian sausage as well as a mixture of ricotta, mozzarella, grated romano cheese, eggs and basil. I usually alternate between the cheese mixture and the sausage as I’m stuffing the pepper. I like to use a zip lock bag with the tip cut off for ease in doing the ricotta mixture, also a quick saute of the peppers beforehand makes them easier to handle.

Place them single layer in a baking dish with a light marinara sauce spooned over top , cover loosely with foil and bake at 375F until tender and the cheese and egg mixture is cooked through.

You might have come across this type of red pepper in your market sometimes refered to as Ancient Sweets red peppers, typically they are very long about 10 inches, since they’re so big they’re great for stuffing with whole pieces of sausage, nice and sweet and very tender similar to the Melrose Pepper.
Hope you’re enjoying all the local and seasonal produce in your areas as summer winds down.
Buon Appetito!


melrose peppersmelrose peppers
I felt I had to write a blog about Melrose Peppers. They are my Hubby’s absolute favorite! He waits eagerly every summer when they appear at our local Italian store.
You won’t find them any where else, in fact many people don’t know what they are. I’ve had women and men come up to me as I was picking them out, asking “what do you do with these?” “how do you make them?” Well the answer is very simple. You have to rinse and dry them off, then you cut the tops off and scoop out the seeds, (don’t worry if you don’t get all the seeds out because they taste sort of good!)

Leave them whole, then sauté them in a hot pan with olive oil, salt and pepper and a little granulated garlic until they’re nice and  golden brown, then lower the heat and throw in a small 8oz can of tomato sauce.( Italian brand preferred), or some cherry tomatoes like I did above.

Cook them till they are nice and soft, NOT mushy. Every time I make melrose peppers  the smell brings my Hubby back to his childhood when his Mom use to make them. They’re not a fancy food, their plain and simple comfort food.

His famous words are (“I can make a meal out of these!”) And he does, with some good Italian bread and a plate of Melrose Peppers he’s a Happy Man!!