I’m frequently amazed at how delicious simply prepared food can be. Such was the case a few weeks ago when Rick and I travelled to Gijón, in the north of Spain. Famed for its beaches, sidra (cider) and seafood, Gijón is probably the last place you’d expect to find an incredible dish called pisto, Spain’s version of ratatouille; yet we ate it in an Italian restaurant called Vesuvio while we watched people walk around the harbor.
Pisto is usually served as a side dish, although with a few more ingredients, it could easily make a meal. Not all versions of pisto are made from roasted veggies. I’ve come across variations that are cooked entirely on top of the stove (or open fire) as well as versions which use whole tomatoes instead of tomato sauce. Some omit the eggplant altogether.
As an Italian restaurant, Vesuvio boasts a wood fired oven for pizza and baked dishes. This recipe attempted to recreate the conditions at home by roasting the veggies in a very hot oven. Cumin and smoky paprika add some smokiness…almost as good as a wood fire, and a lot less work!
Like so many of my recipes, there’s no set measurements for most of the ingredients. You’re limited only by the casserole dish you plan to cook the pisto in. As you cut up the veggies, put them in a large casserole. It’s okay if they mound up because they will cook down.
Once the veggies are cut up, toss them in a generous amount of olive oil and season with a bit of salt. We want the veggies to roast instead of steam, so spread them out on a baking tray before placing them in a 450° oven. You’ll use the casserole dish for the finish, no need to wash it just yet.
Check them every 15 minutes and give them a good stir. Don’t worry if the onions and peppers get a little char on them, but watch they don’t burn too much. After a half hour, it’s time to transfer to the casserole.
Add about a cup of tomato sauce to the bottom of the casserole and season to taste with cumin, smoky paprika, oregano and salt and pepper. Transfer the veggies to the casserole and stir gently to combine. Return the whole thing to the oven for another 15 minutes or so. The dish is ready when all the vegetables are very soft, but still recognizable.
- 1 medium eggplant
- 1 - 2 zucchini (depending on the size)
- 1 onion
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 green bell pepper
- olive oil
- 1 cup of your favorite tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoky paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 450°F
- Cut all the vegetables into bite sized pieces.
- Toss them with a generous amount of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt.
- Transfer the veggies to baking sheets and roast until softened, about 30 minutes.
- In the bottom of a large casserole dish mix the tomato sauce with the cumin, smoky paprika, oregano and salt and pepper.
- Carefully spoon the veggies into the casserole and stir to combine with the tomato sauce.
- Return to the oven and bake for another 15 - 20 minutes.
We enjoyed our pisto with a crusty bread. The leftovers were served over lentils for lunch. You could also serve it over pasta or greens with some grated parmesan. Another option is to serve the pisto with fried eggs…very Spanish. [EDIT Jan 2016: I wanted to mention that we were recently served a tapa of pisto with small cut french fries (a little bigger than shoestring potatoes) and it was really good!]
No matter how you serve your pisto, the flavor roasted eggplant and summer vegetables in this simple pisto de berenjena is just incredible.