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Taste Test: Roasted red peppers

Adding red peppers to a dish boosts color, flavor and presentation. With so many brands of roasted peppers preserved in jars, it's easy to make a simple dish look and taste more complex. Taster's Choice judges enjoyed a recent sampling of nine brands of roasted red peppers on the shelves of local grocery stores.

Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent

Product/Score (out of 100) Mezzetta/ 74 Mt. Olive/ 61 B & G/ 59
How'd it look? Firm and sliced thin, clear, almost see-through. "Like shreds of the Italian flag." Big, plump and crisp. "A bit like a piece of charred salmon." Homemade — like they were right off the grill. Soft and subtle "like a Prada handbag."
Judges' comments The peppers had a slight vinaigrette flavor. "They have a smoky aftertaste and would be great in a savory dish when you need a strong, pepper flavor," said a judge who also liked the firm texture. "They would be great on a pasta with parsley and olives." Another panelist who detected a pickled taste said she would use the Mezzetta peppers on a sandwich. Judges compared these to tomatoes because of the al dente texture. The crispness of the peppers made one panelist certain the brand would not fall apart in a recipe. He also liked the full-flavored, slightly salty taste. Another said it had "good heat." These peppers were the color of valentines with the flavors of peppers and pickles. They were described as "fresh roasted" with flecks of brown coloring. Descriptions of the flavor ranged from sweet and smoky to notes of apricot.
Would they buy? Three of the four judges said yes. Two of the four judges said yes. Three of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information Widely available. $4.27 for a 16-ounce jar from Sweetbay. Widely available. $1.76 for a 12-ounce jar from Wal-Mart. Widely available. $2.39 for a 12-ounce jar from Publix.
Also sampled: Vigo ($1.99 for a 12-ounce jar from Sweetbay, 53 points); Dell' Alpe ($2.99 for a 12-ounce jar from Sweetbay, 42 points); Mancini ($2.05 for a 12-ounce jar from Publix, 41 points); Pastene ($1.99 for a 7-ounce jar from Sweetbay, 50 points); Alessi ($2.89 for a 12-ounce jar from Sweetbay, 21 points); and Danbars ($1.59 for a 7-ounce jar from Sweetbay, 58 points).

Panelists: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian with Pinellas County Cooperative Extension; Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; Jim Yockey, aesthetician at Anu You Institute; and consumer/foodie John Hehn, owner of All Brite Lighting & Power Design Inc. All foods were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or e-mail them to Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to

Taste Test: Roasted red peppers 03/03/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 3, 2009 3:30am]
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