Pisto is that famous tapa that you will find in every single Spanish restaurant! Perfectly cooked vegetable stew in a flavorful tomato sauce with plenty of good old olive oil.
This Mediterranean vegetable stew is a medley of summer veggies like zucchini, bell peppers, eggplant and tomatoes all simmered down to a creamy consistency.
Imagine Pisto coming to your table in their tapas sized cazuealas, usually topped with a fried egg and served with some fresh, warm bread. Time to meet Spanish Ratatouille!!
Yes, Pisto and Ratatouille are almost similar in their looks and flavors, yet some purist will pinpoint some little differences. Both are vegetable stews out of the Mediterranean and are jam packed with hearty flavors.
A few weeks back we tried our hand at Ratatouille and simply marveled at the results a few vegetables can create if cooked right.
We are traveling in Spain for five weeks and started our blogging adventure in Madrid, then Sevilla, Mijas and are currently in Granada. I am very excited to present our Spain travel and food guides very soon here on GypsyPlate. There is so much to see and eat everywhere you go from big cities to smaller Medieval towns scattered all over.
Now after a few weeks in Spain, we have already ordered Pisto a few times, especially when we get tired of meaty dishes. Pisto topped with eggs is very sumptuous and hearty, and would even please any meat lover with its deep and rich flavors, thanks to an abundance of good quality olive oil.
We love to cook local specialties on our trips. Whenever we try some cracking local delicacy, it inspires us to cook our version of the same in our Airbnb kitchens. Our New Orleans BBQ Shrimp from NoLa, and Toad in the Hole from Wales have a lot of memories of cooking them in distant lands. We decided to cook Pisto this time, as we figured it’s Spain’s most beloved vegetable dish.
Why We Loved Spanish Vegetable Stew
- Rich in flavor: Pisto is cooked slowly, allowing the flavors of the different vegetables to blend together, creating a rich, complex flavor profile.
- Versatile: Pisto can be served in many different ways. It can be a side dish, a main dish with a fried egg on top, or an accompaniment to meats or fish. It can also be served as a tapa (small dish) along with other dishes.
- Healthy: Pisto is packed with vegetables, making it a nutritious choice. It’s high in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and it’s naturally low in calories.
- Comforting: Like many stews, pisto is a comforting food. It’s warm, hearty, and satisfying.
- Variety: There are many variations of pisto, and part of the fun is trying different versions, or even coming up with your own.
- Easy to make: Pisto doesn’t require any special cooking skills or equipment, and it’s a great way to use up leftover vegetables.
- Suitable for many diets: Pisto is naturally vegan (unless topped with a fried egg), and it’s also gluten-free. It can easily be adjusted to fit many dietary needs.
What is Pisto?
Pisto, also known as “pisto manchego”, is a Spanish dish that originated in the region of Castilla-La Mancha, located in the heart of the Iberian Peninsula. It is traditionally a summer dish, as it utilizes an abundance of seasonal vegetables.
The name “pisto” means “pounded” in Spanish, which refers to the original method of preparation where vegetables were ground or pounded in a mortar. The dish can trace its roots back to the Moorish occupation of Spain, where similar vegetable stews were common.
Pisto is often compared to French ratatouille, as both are vegetable stews, but they have different flavor profiles and preparation methods.
Pisto is typically made from green and red peppers, tomatoes, onions, eggplants, and zucchini, all fried in olive oil and sometimes topped with a fried egg. It can be served as a main dish or as a tapa.
There are many variations of Pisto throughout Spain, and each region or even each cook might have their own version of the dish. For instance, in some areas, they add squash or pumpkin, while others include potatoes.
Despite the variations, the essence of the dish remains the same: a comforting vegetable stew that showcases the flavors of the season.
What is Difference Between Pisto and Ratatouille?
Pisto and Ratatouille are similar in that both are vegetable stews that originated in Mediterranean countries. Both are hearty, flavorful, and made with a base of seasonal vegetables. However, there are a few key differences between the two:
- Origin: Pisto is from Spain, specifically the region of Castilla-La Mancha, whereas Ratatouille comes from France, specifically Provence.
- Cutting the Veggies: Ratatouille tends to have chunkier cut veggies, and Pisto uses relatively smaller vegetable pieces.
- Preparation: In a traditional Ratatouille, each vegetable is often sautéed separately before cooking with tomato sauce. This method allows each vegetable to keep its own flavor. Pisto, on the other hand, typically involves the vegetables all being cooked together, creating a more homogeneous mixture where the flavors meld together.
- Serving: Pisto is commonly served with bread and sometimes topped with a fried egg, and it can be served as a tapa, side dish, or a main dish. Ratatouille, while it can also be a main or side dish, is often served as an accompaniment to dishes like fish or meat.
- Olive Oil – We use premium extra virgin olive oil for our Pisto. A good quality olive oil is very essential to develop a great end result. Feel free to use good quality regular olive oil instead of extra virgin, if you prefer a lighter flavor.
- Vegetables – Onion, bell peppers (we used local green and red long cylindrical bell sweet peppers), zucchini, eggplant.
- Tomatoes – Today we are using tomato passata, commonly found in Spain. You can use crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce, or even blanch fresh tomatoes quickly and puree or grate them.
- Aromatics and herbs – Garlic, thyme, oregano, rosemary (just a light hint of herbs).
- Salt and pepper – To taste.
- Sugar – Optional. Only a little only in case your tomatoes are acidic or have a lot of tang.
Pisto Manchego Recipe
Cook the vegetables: Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add diced onion to the pot and sauté until it becomes translucent. Add the green and red bell peppers and garlic to the pot and continue to sauté for another 5 minutes. Add zucchini and eggplant to the pot. Stir well and continue to cook for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables start to soften.
Add tomato Stir in the tomato passata or crushed tomatoes along with herbs, salt, red chili flakes.
Simmer: Lower the heat and let the mixture simmer for about 35-45 minutes, or until all the vegetables are soft and the flavors have melded together. Stir occasionally to prevent the vegetables from sticking to the pot. Taste and season for salt or sugar.
Serve: Serve Pisto warm. It can be served as a main dish, side dish, or tapa. You can add a fried egg on top of each serving if desired.
Tips and Tricks for Best Pisto
- Use the freshest ingredients: Pisto is all about the flavors of the vegetables, so using the freshest, ripest ingredients will make a big difference in the final taste of the dish.
- Take your time: Don’t rush the cooking process. The vegetables should be cooked slowly so that they can release their juices and flavors. This also helps to make the vegetables tender.
- Size matters: When chopping your vegetables, try to make them all roughly the same size. This ensures that everything cooks evenly.
- Adjust to your taste: The types and amounts of vegetables used in pisto can vary based on personal preference. Feel free to experiment with different vegetables and proportions to find what you like best.
- Consider the order of cooking: It’s best to add the vegetables that take the longest to cook first (like the onions and peppers), and add those that cook more quickly (like the zucchini and eggplant) later.
- Season well: Don’t be afraid to season your pisto. While the vegetables are the star of the show, salt is necessary to bring out their flavors.
- Try different vegetables: You can add other vegetables based on what’s in season or what you have on hand. For instance, some cooks like to add potatoes, squash, or pumpkin to their pisto.
- Add meat or seafood: While traditional pisto is a vegetarian dish, some people like to add a bit of meat or seafood for extra flavor and protein. Chorizo or other Spanish sausages can be a great addition, as can shrimp or other seafood.
- Bulk it up with beans: For a heartier, more protein-packed dish, consider adding cooked chickpeas or other beans to your pisto.
- Pisto with cheese: Some variations of pisto include a bit of cheese. Manchego, a cheese from the same region as pisto, is a popular choice. You could melt a bit of cheese on top of the pisto, or sprinkle some grated cheese over each serving.
- Top it with eggs: A common way to serve pisto is with a fried or poached egg on top. The runny yolk mixes with the vegetables to create a rich, satisfying dish.
Pisto Serving Suggestions
Pisto is a versatile dish that can be served in various ways. Here are some suggestions:
- As a tapa: In Spain, pisto is often served as a tapa, or small dish, accompanied by slices of crusty bread. This is a great way to serve pisto at a party or gathering.
- As a side dish: Pisto can be served as a side dish alongside meat, seafood, or other protein. It pairs especially well with grilled or roasted fish.
- As a main dish: Served with bread, pisto can be a satisfying meatless main dish. Our easy No Knead Bread goes great with pisto.
- As a filling: Pisto can be used as a filling for empanadas, crepes, or omelets. You could also use it to stuff bell peppers or tomatoes.
- On toast: Pisto can be served on toast for a hearty breakfast or lunch. This is similar to the Italian dish “bruschetta”.
- With rice or pasta: You could serve your pisto over rice or pasta for a filling, one-dish meal.
Leftovers and Storage
Before storing, allow your pisto to cool down to room temperature. Transfer the cooled pisto to an airtight container.
You can store the pisto in the refrigerator if you plan to eat it within a few days, usually around 3-5 days. If you want to store it for longer, you can freeze it. Pisto freezes quite well and can last for up to 3 months in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the fridge.
When you’re ready to eat your leftover pisto, reheat it in a pan on the stovetop over low heat, or in the microwave.
If you liked our French Ratatouille, it’s time to try our Pisto. We’re absolutely digging into it along with some runny eggs mixing with the delicious veggies, and mopping all the olive oil based sauce with some warm bread.
Pisto is huge in Spain, and there is a good reason for it. It’s absolutely finger licking delicious!!!
Try these other great meatless dinner ideas!
Mediterranean White Beans
Pasta alla Norma
Black Bean Chili
Pisto (Spanish Vegetable Stew)
This Spanish Pisto Recipe is a wonderfully flavorful vegetable stew that goes great as a tapa, side dish, or meatless main.
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced (see note 1)
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, cubanelle, Italian sweet pepper, diced
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 1 eggplant, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped or sliced
- 15.5oz tomato passata or crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp dried fresh rosemary
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp-1/2 tsp red chili flakes
- salt, to taste
- peppe,r to taste
- sugar, optional to taste (see note 2)
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add diced onion to the pot and sauté until it becomes translucent. Add the green and red bell peppers and garlic to the pot and continue to sauté for another 5 minutes.
- Add zucchini and eggplant to the pot. Stir well and continue to cook for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables start to soften.
- Stir in the tomato passate or crushed tomatoes along with herbs, salt, pepper, and red chili flakes.
- Lower the heat and let the mixture simmer, covered, for about 35-45 minutes, or until all the vegetables are soft and the flavors have melded together. Stir occasionally to prevent the vegetables from sticking to the pot. Taste and season for salt or sugar.
- Serve pisto warm. It can be served as a main dish, side dish, or tapa. You can add a fried egg on top of each serving.
- Cut all the vegetables into small cubes of similar size.
- You can use sugar to reduce the acidity or tang of tomatoes. Skip it of you have sweet tomatoes or tomato passata.
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