Piquillo pimientos are to peppers what Parmigiano Reggiano is to cheese: the undisputed sovereign. The aroma is sweet and fresh, like a pepper that was just picked, warm from the sun. The flavor is a balance of bright, rich fruit with the darker, smoky notes from roasting over a fire. However, buyer beware: there are many versions sold these days and a heck of a lot of them—even many sold in Spain, the home of piquillos—aren't the real deal. There’s a huge difference in flavor.
These piquillos are grown near the town of Lodosa, deep in Spanish Basque country. Piquillos have been grown there for centuries, developing their trademark complex, barely spicy flavor. After harvesting in the fall, the peppers are roasted until the skins are totally blackened. Then the peppers are skinned by hand, one at a time. Then the peppers are jarred in nothing but their own juices, with a tiny smidge of citric acid to keep them fresh.
Piquillo pimientos aren't cheap, but the return on flavor you get with your extra dollar is extraordinary. They also happen to be gorgeous, which makes them excellent for entertaining. Lay a rose-red piquillo on a white plate in a pool of gorgeous Alziari olive oil, and you’ll have an hors d’oeuvre as luscious to look at as it is to eat.
Piquillo peppers are packed in their own juices, nothing else. Upon opening, top them off with olive oil and store in your refrigerator. They will last a couple months.