Portuguese Sweet Pepper Paste

Ana Patuleia Ortins

Cookbook author Ana Patuleia Ortins is a first-generation descendant of Portuguese immigrants.

Massa de Pimentão (Sweet Pepper Paste)

Courtesy photo


1. Set wooden box or sieve onto one end of sheet pan. Pour a 2.5 cm (1 inch) layer of coarse salt across the bottom of the box or lined sieve. From this point, do not move the box or sieve. Once the base salt is added, like assembling a jigsaw puzzle, place the pepper slices skin side up, onto the salt, making sure to uncurl even the smallest part of the pepper, otherwise mold will form. Lightly press the slices onto the salt.

2. Once the layer of peppers is completed, cover the peppers with a 1.3 cm (½ inch) layer of salt. Make a second layer of peppers, finishing with another 1.3 cm (½ inch) layer of salt, completely covering the peppers. Cover with wax paper and place heavy dishes on top to weigh it down. Move the sheet pan near a sink. Place a thick wooden spoon or two under the sheet pan to raise the box end. Let stand up to 5 days. When ready, drainage will have slowed to a trickle and peppers will be very thin.

3. Do not rinse the peppers. Simply wipe off excess salt. Process the peppers in a meat grinder, blender or food processor until fairly fine. Pack in the jars to within 2.5 cm (1 inch) of top. Top off with the olive oil and seal tightly. May be stored in the refrigerator for at least 6 to 9 months. To use, push aside any congealed olive oil, remove what you need, depending on the recipe then top off jar with more olive oil, recover and store.

Carne de Porco à Alentejana (Pork with Clams Alentejo Style)

Carne de Porco à Alentejana (Pork with Clams Alentejo Style) Courtesy photo

The dish, although it originated in the Algarve, is named for the meat of the Alentejo black pigs raised on truffles.

Succulent sautéed pieces of marinated pork somehow work so well with briny clams. It all comes together in a zesty garlic-and-wine-based broth infused with sweet pepper paste, paprika and, most importantly, fresh chopped cilantro. This dish is often served in restaurants with fried cubed potatoes. It is a great one pot dish to serve for guests.

Note: Begin this recipe one day before serving, as the meat will need to marinate overnight.


1. To marinate the pork: The day before serving, use a mortar and pestle to crush the garlic with the paprika, bay leaf, black pepper, cilantro, Sweet Pepper Paste, and hot pepper sauce. Continue to mash into a paste. Place the pork into a non-reactive bowl and add the paste, coating the meat well. Add the wine so that it just covers the meat. Cover and refrigerate for at least several hours, preferably overnight.

2. To finish and serve: Remove the meat from the refrigerator about 45 minutes before cooking. Reserving the marinade, drain the pork into a sieve set over a separate bowl. Strain the marinade and set aside.

3. Heat the olive oil in a 36 cm (14 inch) wide heavy bottom pan or cataplana pan, paella pan or braising pan over medium-high heat. Brown the pork in small batches, 5 to 8 minutes per batch. Transfer the browned meat to a dish and cover.

4. To the same pan, add the onions and sauté until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic and paprika. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the reserved marinade. Mix the tomato paste with wine and stir in to the onions and tomatoes. Simmer for 1 minute. Transfer the meat back to the pan and add the parboiled potatoes.

5. Nestle the clams in between the meat and potatoes, then cover tightly. Simmer over medium-low heat until the meat is fork tender, the potatoes have taken on the flavor of the sauce and the clams are opened, 15 to 20 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open. Set the pan on the table and serve directly from the pan, garnish with finely chopped cilantro. Serve with bread and olives on the side and lemon wedges to squeeze some juice over the dish if desired.

Potatoes Roasted with Sweet Pepper Paste

Stock photo


1. Preheat oven 190°C (375°F).

2. With a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic with the paprika, forming a paste. Incorporate the pepper paste, bay leaf, parsley, black pepper, and wine. Drizzle in the olive oil, and mix into a spreadable paste.

3. Cut potatoes into quarters. In a bowl, mix the potatoes with the seasoning paste, turning to coat completely. Transfer to a roasting pan or baking dish and cover with foil. Roast for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, remove foil, turn the potatoes and continue to roast for 30 minute more, uncovered, until tender. Season with salt if needed.