I remember watching Ratatouille when my kids were younger. It was a favorite movie at our home because (who am I kidding) it was all about food and cooking. The dish that the little rat (those of you who haven’t seen the movie should not be alarmed) prepares for the famous food critic, is a well known dish in Spain called “pisto”. I think we watched that movie dozens of times and it never got old.

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In the movie, the rat in question is French, but there are versions of this vegetable dish on both sides of the Pyrenees and they are equally delicious. Pisto is simple peasant food that combines seasonal vegetables in a tomato based broth. Traditionally, it is served as a side, but sometimes on its own accompanied by a hearty slice of crusty bread. By the way, once you start eating this quintessentially Mediterranean dish you’ll understand why the bread is such a necessary item: the bright broth that remains at the bottom of the bowl is best collected with a soft piece of fresh sourdough bread.

As in the case of the grim cartoon critic, his mind flooded by memories of his mother’s cooking, I also remember the many evenings we had a steaming plate of pisto for dinner. It was always so tasty, so satisfying that I sometimes found myself pilfering the refrigerator for more later in the evening. Like other stews, pisto only gets better with time, once its flavors have had the opportunity to properly merge. So it follows that for me, pisto tastes of school night dinners at home, sitting at the table with family talking about what happened that day and being in the moment which is a rare thing these days.

I cannot guarantee that the enjoyment you might derive from eating pisto for the first time will be equal to mine, but I do promise that this dish will provide you with many of the vitamins, minerals and much of the fiber you need in your daily diet. That in itself is a great endorsement. That it is an uber comforting dish that warms you from head to toe is just the icing on the cake.

Spanish Pisto

1 can diced tomato
2 tsp tomato paste
1 medium yellow onion
2 large cloves of garlic
1 medium eggplant
1 large zucchini
1/2 tsp pimenton (sweet paprika)
Salt & pepper to taste
1 medium green pepper
1 medium red pepper
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Mince the garlic and set aside. Cut the yellow onion, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and peppers into small pieces. Heat up the oil in a deep pot and sauté the onion on low heat until it becomes translucent.  Add the eggplant and continue cooking for a couple of minutes on low heat. Add the minced garlic taking good care not to burn it. Once the eggplant has softened, add the rest of the vegetables and mix well. At this point you can add a little bit more oil and then put a lid on the pot. Let the veggies sweat for a few minutes making sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Add the tomato paste and a little bit of water. Season with salt, pepper and the pimenton. Simmer until everything is soft and the flavors have melded.

close up pisto