- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 20 minutes
- Serves 4
I first came across this dish at the elementary school in Madrid, where I taught English, and where they served it for lunch. Filing into the cafeteria, some of the students would complain, “Que no me gusta el pisto!” (I don’t like pisto!), but I always looked forward to pisto day. Eventually, I learned to make the dish myself.
Ubiquitous throughout Spain, “pisto” is a stewy dish similar to French ratatouille or Israeli shakshuka. The essential ingredients are tomatoes, onions, and peppers. While the Manchego ("Manchego" = from La Mancha, from where the eponymous sheep's milk cheese also hails!) version, with zucchini and a pièce-de-résistance poached or fried egg, is arguably the most popular, each region has a distinct take on pisto. In the sunny southwest, Andalusians throw in eggplant, as do their neighbors to the east, in Murcia. In Rioja, a cook might finish her pisto by beating a few eggs directly into the mixture at the end. The Bilbaínos up north double the eggs, and it skews more toward a veggie-heavy scramble.
I have my own version that I like to describe as a summer garden in a bowl—even better when it's topped with an egg.
Test Kitchen Notes
Featured in: Summer Calls for Pisto Manchego—With a Fried Egg on Top.
Like French ratatouille, Italian caponata, Greek briam, Turkish imam bayildi—let's face it, we could go on forever here—Spanish pisto is a love letter to summer vegetables. It's also a highly delicious and hearty way to enjoy this fresh bounty in a stick-to-your-ribs, belly-warming way still befitting of the warm weather.
As mentioned in the headnote above, the ingredients for this dish can vary widely based on the region where the cook resides. All of this is to say, play around here based on what you have on hand. While tomatoes, peppers, and onions are absolutely essential, you could stick in thick cubes of eggplant, zucchini (or any kind of thin-skinned summer squash), ribbons of greens like chard or kale, alliums like leeks or scallions, meaty cremini mushrooms, crisp green beans, sweet corn, even small cubes of potatoes or yams—the sky (well, garden) is really the limit.
Just make sure to add the vegetables to the pan ahead of the tomatoes and based on their cook time; you can adjust the water in the pan to allow for maximum tenderness and stewy-ness. You want every bite of the pisto to be silky and soft, and coated with the unctuous runny yolks of your fried eggs.
Last, though the sherry vinegar is listed as optional, acid of some kind is pretty essential here to lift and brighten the sweetness and comforting vibes of this dish. If you don't have sherry vinegar, red wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, or even a choice squeeze of lemon juice should absolutely do the trick. Don't be shy with it! —The Editors
olive oil, plus more as needed
white onions, sliced thin
sea salt, plus more to taste
zucchini or yellow squash (or one of each), peeled and chopped
Italian peppers (or 2 bell peppers), cored and chopped
cloves of garlic, diced
medium tomatoes, cored and chopped
sherry vinegar (optional)
- In a large saucepan over high-medium heat, add a generous coating of olive oil. Once oil is hot, add onions, salt and continually stir.
- When onions are golden and some are a little singed, add squash and a splash more olive oil. Throw in a few more pinches of salt.
- Once the squash cooks down, add peppers and another splash of olive oil. Cook for a few minutes then add the garlic. If the mixture is getting dry, add another touch of olive oil. Keep stirring continually. Salt to taste—it should be a little extra salty at this point because the tomatoes (coming next) will absorb a good deal of it.
- By now, your vegetables should be soft and coming together. Add the chopped tomatoes, which will contribute some much-needed moisture.
- Cook tomatoes down until they seem to have released all of their water. Stir in a splash of sherry vinegar. After a couple of minutes, pour in a half cup of water, stir and lower heat, letting the ingredients simmer together for at least 10 minutes (feel free to go lower and slower). Salt (again! I know!) to taste.
- In a medium saucepan, add a healthy glug of olive oil. Once oil is hot, crack four eggs into the pan and fry to preferred doneness.
- Serve pisto with a fried egg for each person and a baguette (or any such delicious bread on hand).