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Photo Credit: Lindsey Galey

Why Giada Loves Calabrian Chili Paste

07 May 2024
by Giadzy
Photo Credit: Lindsey Galey
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The uniquely Italian chili pepper is Giada’s favorite way to add a little heat.

Giada fans know that Calabrian chili paste is one of her go-to ingredients in the kitchen—not only does the vibrant red condiment add a spicy kick wherever it’s used, it has a depth of flavor way beyond your everyday dried chili. Fresh Calabrian chilis known as diavoletti rossi (“red devils”) are crushed and mixed with oil, white wine vinegar, basil, and salt to make a fresh-tasting, spicy paste that gives a bold boost to any dish.

In addition to Giada’s pantry-staple Calabrian Chili Pasta, this ultra-versatile condiment makes appearances in everything from cocktails to crostini. It’s a shape-shifting secret weapon! But what is Calabrian chili paste, exactly?


Where Does It Come From?

Calabrian chilis come from — you guessed it! — Calabria. The southernmost point on the Italian peninsula, the region of Calabria occupies the "toe” of Italy’s boot. It’s known for its fine-sand beaches and the fact that's its surrounded by crystal blue sea. Thanks to its southerly position, the climate is warm, with mild winters and sunny, hot summers.

In this favorably warm climate, hot-weather-loving crops like spicy peppers grow in abundance. Brought over from the Americas in the 16th century, chili peppers did not catch on immediately among many Europeans, who thought their intense spiciness might be dangerous. But when the little peppers reached southern Italy, locals fell in love with the way their bold heat complimented other local crops, like tomatoes and eggplants. Hardy and easy to grow, chilis became a staple of the cuisine in Calabria.

Calabria On A Map

How Spicy Is It?

The most accurate measurement for determining the spice level of a pepper is the Scoville Scale, which gives peppers a numerical score based on how spicy they are. A bell pepper, for example, is 0 Scoville units, a jalapeno is 2,500 to 8,000, a habanero is anywhere from 100,000 to 350,000, and a ghost pepper is around 1,000,000. The Calabrian Chili is ranked at 25,000 to 40,000 Scoville units.

 

What Does It Tastes Like?

There's more than just heat to a chili pepper! In addition to its Scoville rating, every type of pepper has its own flavor notes. Jalapenos are green and bright, habaneros are citrusy, and the Calabrian chili has a smoky, sweet warmth. The special beauty of Calabrian chili paste is that the fiery pepper is mellowed out by the oil and touch of vinegar, allowing its fruity, smoky flavor to shine through. 

calabrian chili paste on pizza

How Do I Use It?

If you’re already a heat lover and want to appreciate Calabrian chili paste in all its bold, spicy glory, we always recommend making Giada’s Calabrian Chili Pasta first. (The recipe includes instructions for tailoring the spice level to your personal taste, so even the less courageous among us can enjoy it!) Or check out some of the recipes below that use the spicy pepper paste to get a sense of its spicy versatility.

Once you’ve got a sense of its flavor, you can use it anywhere you might add a hit of hot sauce or chili oil, or in recipes that call for a dash of chili flakes. Dollop it on pizzas, add it to your eggs in the morning, whisk it into vinaigrettes…the possibilities are endless. Chances are, you'll fall in love with it too.

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