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) 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.
—Caitlin Raux Gunther
Test Kitchen Notes
Featured in: Summer Calls for Pisto Manchego—With a Fried Egg on Top. —The Editors
- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 20 minutes
- Serves 4
olive oil, plus more as needed
white onions, sliced thin
sea salt (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).