Packed with flavour and easy to prepare, Pisto Manchego is a vibrant Spanish vegetable stew made with a medley of fresh summer vegetables. In this traditional Spanish dish, bell peppers and zucchini are slowly cooked to perfection along with tomatoes, garlic, onions and herbs. Spanish Pisto is a humble yet very versatile dish as it can be served warm or cold, as a tapa, appetizer or as a side dish and even as breakfast topped with a fried egg. It is easy to make and delicious to eat.

Spanish ratatouille or pisto manchego with a fried egg served in a clay bowl

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What is Pisto Manchego?

Pisto was originally a peasants dish from the La Mancha region in central Spain, made with local vegetables from the land (de la huerta). At first it was made only with peppers and tomatoes, but later other vegetables were added, depending on what was in season at any given time.

The word ‘pisto’ derives from the latin word pistus, meaning crushed or ground, which is possibly how the vegetables in this dish were prepared to extract the juice. Nowadays, the vegetables are cut into small dices before stewing. Pisto Manchego originates from the La Mancha region in central Spain, hence its name.

Pisto Manchego is also known as Spanish ratatouille because of its close resemblance with its French counterpart. But both dishes are not exactly the same and vary ever so slightly in ways of ingredients, seasoning and methods of preparing the vegetables. But all in all, it can be said that this Spanish vegetable recipe is very similar to other Mediterranean dishes like French ratatouille, Italian peperonata and Israeli shakshuka.

Which ingredients to use

Ingredients Spanish pisto Manchego zucchini peppers tomatoes garlic onion
  • Bell peppers: Authentic pisto is made with red and green bell peppers. But you can use any colour you have on hand or a mix thereof. For this recipe I used red bell peppers. Use only fresh peppers with a firm and brightly coloured skin.

  • Tomatoes: Pisto is best made with fresh (peeled) tomatoes as it makes this dish light, fresh and slightly tangy. As a substitute you can use canned tomatoes or passata, but nothing beats the taste of fresh, sweet and ripe tomatoes.

  • Onions: To provide the base flavour for this dish. Either yellow, red or white onions can be used.

  • Zucchini or Courgette: No need to peel the zucchini as the skin is healthy and adds a vibrant colour to the dish.

  • Garlic: Use a few cloves of fresh garlic. I use 3 in this recipe, but feel free to add more or less according to personal taste. Also, first sautéing the garlic in olive oil intensifies the flavour base even more, resulting in a richer and more complex taste.

  • Olive oil: The vegetables are poached or sweated in the olive oil to allow them to release their best flavours. So use a nice flavoured olive oil (preferably extra virgin). But there is no need for it to be super expensive, just good quality. Bear in mind that olive oil is not just for cooking the vegetables, it is an integral part of the flavours of this dish.

  • Vinegar (optional): A splash of sherry or white wine vinegar enhances the flavour of the pisto that much more by adding a touch of acidity and freshness to it.

  • Seasoning: Apart from salt and pepper, add a pinch of ground cumin for a lovely earthy flavour.

  • Fresh parsley: Served with chopped fresh parsley.
Spanish pisto manchego in a clay bowl with a wooden spoon

How to peel tomatoes

When using fresh tomatoes in a stew it’s always best to remove the peels. The best way to remove them is by blanching the tomatoes quickly in boiling water by following these simple steps:

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  2. With a sharp knife, score the bottom of the tomatoes with a shallow x and remove the stem.
  3. Put the tomatoes in the boiling water for 30-45 seconds.
  4. Take them out, with a spatula or some other kitchen tool, and transfer them to a pot of cold water (to stop the blanching).
  5. The skin can now be easily removed with a paring knife or similar.

How to make Spanish pisto

Note: All the exact quantities of the ingredients can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post

This vegetable stew comes together in just a few easy steps, but the most important tip is long and slow cooking with fresh ingredients in order to obtain the best flavours.

prepared vegetables to make Spanish pisto recipe peppers, garlic, onions, tomatoes, zucchini or courgette
  • Prepare the vegetables: Wash the bell peppers, then remove the stems, seeds and white membranes. Rinse the zucchini and cut off both ends. Peel the onion, garlic and tomatoes.

  • Cut the vegetables: Cut the bell peppers and zucchini into small-sized cubes of about 1 cm or 1/2 inch. Just make sure all pieces are cut in similar sizes to allow for equal cooking. Finely dice the onion and mince the garlic. Cut the peeled tomatoes into smallish chunks, the size of which doesn’t really matter.

  • Sauté the vegetables: Heat the olive oil in a large pan or dutch oven on low heat and add the garlic. Leave to blanche for 2 minutes in order to infuse the oil. Increase the heat to medium and add the onions, then sauté for a few minutes until they are translucent and fragrant. Add the bell peppers and leave to cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Once the peppers start to get tender, add the zucchini and cook for another 2 minutes.
4 steps how to make Spanish pisto manchego in a pot
  • Make the stew: When the vegetables are getting softer, add the sherry vinegar and cook for 30 seconds to allow the vinegar to evaporate. Stir in the tomatoes, season with salt, pepper and cumin and mix together well. Cover with a lid, then reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer for a further 15 minutes until all the vegetables are cooked.

  • Season and serve: Season with extra salt and pepper, if required, then sprinkle some fresh parsley over it all before serving.
close up of Spanish pisto manchego with peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, courgette or zucchini and parsley

Tips to make the best pisto recipe

  • Slow cooking: Making pisto is all about cooking it slow rather than rushing through as slow cooking brings out the best flavours from the vegetables. So avoid sautéing on high heat and leave to caramelize gently in the olive oil.

  • Don’t add all the vegetables at once: Each vegetable used in this dish has a different cooking time. So it is important to work in layers and to consider the order of cooking of each type of vegetable. Follow the recipe step by step for the correct and best result.

  • Use enough olive oil: Cooking the vegetables in a few tablespoons of good quality olive oil makes such a difference. So don’t be shy on the olive oil.

  • To peel or not to peel: While I do remove the peels of the tomatoes, I tend to cook the bell peppers and zucchini with their skins on. However, as some people may not digest unpeeled peppers very well, you can consider removing the peels upon personal preference. Use a thin slicer for this.

  • Time to rest: After cooking, when the pisto is removed from the heat and left to rest for half an hour or longer the flavours come together even better.

  • Extra seasoning: You can add dried basil or oregano during cooking for a slightly different flavour. Or cook with a pinch of smoked paprika or chilli flakes to spice things up a bit.

Storage tips

This Spanish vegetable recipe is a perfect make-ahead dish as it will taste even better a while after cooking. Allow to cool to room temperature after cooking and store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

To freeze, divide into smaller portions when cooled down to room temperature and freeze in airtight containers for up to 6 months. Reheat in the microwave or in a small pan on the stove. Or serve cold after thawing overnight in the fridge.

Spanish ratatouille or pisto served in a bowl with a fried egg and antique cutlery

Serving suggestions

This pisto Manchego recipe is such a versatile dish and can be served throughout the day, warm or cold. For breakfast you can top it off with a fried egg.

Serve as a light meal, tapa or appetizer accompanied by slices of crusty bread, baguette or toast. The bread will allow you to mop up all the sauce and juices.

Pisto is mostly served as a side dish with grilled meat, fish or seafood like these squid strips. But it also works well as an extra vegetable dish with a fully vegetarian meal. Or consider serving with Spanish tortilla, empanadas or as a pasta sauce.

Pisto Manchego – Spanish vegetable stew

Pisto Manchego is a vibrant Spanish vegetable stew made with a medley of fresh summer vegetables. It is packed with flavour and very easy to prepare. In this traditional Spanish dish, bell peppers and zucchini are slowly cooked to perfection along with tomatoes, garlic, onions and herbs. Spanish pisto is a humble yet very versatile dish as it can be served either warm or cold, as a tapa, appetizer or side dish or even for breakfast topped with a fried egg.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time35 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Spanish
Servings: 4
Author: Sabine

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (or 300 grams) zucchini cut into small cubes
  • 2 cups (or 300 grams) bell pepper cut into small cubes
  • 2 cups (or 400 grams) tomatoes peeled and diced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Rinse the bell peppers, remove the stems, seeds and white inner membranes. Cut into small dice (1 cm or ½ inch). Wash the zucchini, remove the ends and cut into small dice (1cm or ½ inch).
  • Finely chop the peeled tomatoes. Peel and finely dice the onion and garlic cloves.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large pan, dutch oven or casserole on medium to low heat. Add the garlic and slowly cook for 2 minutes to infuse the oil.
  • Increase the heat to medium and add the onion. Sauté for 2 minutes until translucent. Stir regularly. Add the diced bell peppers, mix well and cook for 5 minutes while stirring frequently. When the peppers start to soften, add the zucchini then mix together gently and leave to cook for a further 2 minutes.
  • Pour in the sherry vinegar and cook for 30 seconds to allow the vinegar to evaporate. Finally, add the tomatoes and season with salt, pepper and cumin.
  • Cover with a lid, reduce to a low heat and leave to simmer for 15 more minutes until the vegetables are tender but not completely soft. The peppers and zucchini should still hold their shape.
  • Season with extra salt and pepper to taste and add fresh parsley before serving.

Notes

  • Bell peppers: All colours of bell peppers can be used, either a mix or you can stick with just one colour.
  • Peel the vegetables: The bell peppers should only be peeled if you have difficulties digesting the skins. No need to peel the zucchini.
  • Peel the tomatoes: You can use canned tomatoes as they are already peeled, but if using fresh tomatoes, first score an x at the bottom of the tomato. Then put them in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds after which take them out and rinse with cold water. Now the peels should come off easily.
  • Vinegar: Use either sherry, white wine or balsamic vinegar.
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