We love spice. Not in a chili-head kind of way, but we think dishes that should be spicy, should be SPICY! So our pantry is always stocked with black pepper, red pepper flakes, Espelette and Pimenton. These three types of dried pepper offer varying levels of heat, smoke and sweetness and until recently, they've been enough to keep us satisfied. But no more…
See, neither Espelette nor Pimenton are very spicy, and while red pepper flakes are hot, the problem is that it needs to bloom in the cooking process. So while it's great for sauteed or roasted vegetables, pasta sauces and braises, it doesn't work so well for finishing a dish.
For that, we now have Controne Hot Pepper. This wonderful ground chile comes from the town of the same name in Campania where they like things spicy! The eponymous pepper is harvested at full maturity, when it's blazing red and plenty hot. The peppers are hung to dry near a wood-burning oven in the family's bakery, where the moisture very slowly evaporates. When the pepper is completely dried, they're hand-ground to a quite fine powder and packed into jars.
Since it's finely ground, it makes a wonderful finishing seasoning. We love it sprinkled over burrata or fresh mozzarella. It's wonderful over slices of raw fish seasoned with a flaky salt and a drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil. The same is true with a beef carpaccio - pound a thinly sliced piece of top round paper-thin, season with salt, extra virgin olive oil and Controne hot pepper and a handful of arugula.
In Campania, they LOVE their pasta and this is a perfect way to zip up your arrabiata sauce or aglio e olio. The capricious heat is also a great foil to the creaminess of stewed beans.