Spanish Pisto With Pesto

Pisto with pesto

Some people assume pisto is a Spanish version of pesto, but it bears far more similarities to ratatouille than Italian pesto or French pistou.

This super-healthy, vegetarian Spanish stew is typically served as a starter and accompanied by either rice or warm, crusty bread. We can't think of many dishes that aren't improved by adding a fried egg on top, and this is a particularly fine example of that.

Traditionally hailing from La Mancha in Spain, the stew contains different ingredients depending on the season. As a rule, though, it consists of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, bell peppers, aubergine, courgette, and onions.

Spices such as cumin, paprika, or cayenne pepper are sometimes added, as are herbs like thyme, rosemary, and oregano. However, when you have some pesto to hand, you don't need to worry about any of that faff. Whilst our take on this classic dish is far from traditional, stirring a generous dollop of pesto through your stew will transport it to a whole new level.

The two tricks to making the best pisto are to cook the vegetables slowly and to make sure you are using only the finest extra-virgin olive oil and tomatoes. When in season, we opt for fresh sungold tomatoes, thanks to their extraordinary sweetness. If we want a taste of summer in the winter months, then nothing beats tinned San Marzano tomatoes.

Recommended equipment
Slow cooker

Pro tip
Like all the best stews, it's worth making a double batch because it tastes even better the next day.

Spanish pisto with pesto ingredients

Spanish pisto recipe for two

Olive oil as needed
Aubergine x1
Courgette x1
Red pepper x1
Yellow pepper x1
Onion x1
Tomatoes x1 tin
Garlic x2 cloves
Pesto 100g
Eggs x2
Sherry vinegar dash
Seasoning to taste

Our ultimate way to make pisto is to start softening some of the vegetables on the hob and then transfer everything to a slow cooker. If a hob is your only option, then just be prepared to spend a good hour on your feet, as it's one of those dishes that requires quite a lot of babysitting. Here, though, we're assuming you're using our slow cooker method.

Slice the onion, crush the garlic, and chop the peppers, courgette, and aubergine into bite-sized chunks.

Add a very generous glug of olive oil to a saucepan or skillet and heat on a medium-low flame. Add the onion and sauté until softened but not browned, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the aubergine, courgette, peppers, and garlic and continue to heat slowly for another 5-10 minutes.

Add the pesto, tinned tomatoes, a splash of vinegar, and a generous pinch of salt. Transfer everything to a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

When the timer's up, simply dish up some warm, crusty bread for your vegan friends. For vegetarians who fancy some protein, serve with a fried egg on top. For dedicated carnivores who are likely to feel hard done by without having any meat for dinner, serve with some cured Ibérico ham or thinly sliced Spanish sausage.