It's no secret Giada adores Calabrian Chili Paste - but what is it, exactly?
Anybody familiar with the world of Giadzy probably recognizes the term "Calabrian Chili Paste". This spicy, vibrant-red condiment is sprinkled into a multitude of Giada's recipes - even in the ones at her restaurants! If you ask Giada about her favorite pantry ingredients, this one will always come up in conversation. Yes, it's spicy - and yes, it's Italian - but what is Calabrian Chili paste, exactly?
Where It Comes From
Calabrian Chilis come from - yes, you guessed it - Calabria! Calabria is as south as you can get in Italy before you hit Sicily, on the "toe" of the boot. The region is known for its expansive beaches and the fact that's its surrounded by crystal blue sea. Due to this favorably warm climate, hot-weather-loving crops like spicy peppers grow in abundance. As such, Calabrian chilis have become the hot pepper of Italy.
The Spice Level
The most accurate measurement for determining the spice level of a pepper is the Scoville Scale, which ranks peppers from almost nothing to intimidatingly high numbers. The Calabrian Chili is ranked at 25,000 to 40,000 Scoville heat units. For context, a bell pepper is 0 Scoville units, a jalepeno is 2,500 to 8,000, a habenero is anywhere from 100,000 to 350,000, and a ghost pepper is around 1,000,000. To put it simply, a calabrian chili is right in the middle of the scale.
To eat one on its own would be quite spicy indeed, but the beauty of Calabrian Chili Paste is that the oil and touch of vinegar mellow out the spice, giving it a more balanced flavor so the nuances can shine through.
What It Tastes Like
Every pepper has its own specific flavor characteristics other than pure spice. Jalapenos are bright and fresh, habaneros are sweet and citrusy, and the Calabrian chili has a smoky, sweet warmth to it. The depth of flavor is what makes Calabrian chilis so special - it goes way beyond pure heat.
Where To Get It
Some specialty stores will carry it, and dedicated Italian markets certainly should. We happen to carry the brand that Giada has always used and loved - the crushed Calabrian Chili Paste from Tutto Calabria. Tap here to buy a jar!
How To Use It
A jar of Calabrian chili paste can last you a very long time, and it can be used in a vast array of dishes. Use it in any sauce you'd put red pepper flakes in for a bit of added depth of flavor (but start small - a little goes a long way!). Dollop pizzas with dots of it, add it to your eggs in the morning, whisk it into vinaigrettes - any dish that could use a hit of spice, really. Chances are, you'll fall in love with it too.
Turn to the recipes listed below for a mere sampling of ways you can use this condiment - and let us know your favorite way to use it in the comments below.