Every mouthful of pisto is an unmistakeable taste of the countryside, with fresh ingredients, zingy herbs and dash of sunshine. Simple but effective, pisto is a real classic. It's the less popular cousin of ratatouille, with a simple formula of fresh tomatoes, aubergines, courgette and peppers.
Hot or cold, starter, main or side, the world of pisto is your oyster. Make it into a sauce for your pizza, stuff it into an empanada, fill a pie… there are almost endless uses for this savoury delight. Though a vegetarian favourite, its rich flavour also gives off a reassuring comfort food vibe. Barcelona-based Corchos love their fresh vegetables, and serve it up as an intriguing cannelloni filling.
Traditionally, pisto is garnished with a fried egg and served with a chunk of fresh bread. The fancy name of this veggie special is pisto manchego, as it's thought to come from La Mancha, and it goes back a long way – back to 882 CE. A man brought back a recipe called alboronia from a trip to Baghdad.
This inspired many similar versions all over the continent – the French whipped up some ratatouille, while in Mallorca they named it tumbet. It's also the basis of kapunata in Malta, letscho in Hungary and ciambrotta in southern Italy.
What makes pisto so popular? We think it's down to the succulent sweetness of the tomatoes that contrasts with the crunchy peppers. Or it's the lightly caramelised aubergines, along with the depth of onion that brings a deep, comforting flavour.
You'll find loads of different versions all over the country. Pisto a la Bilbaina – from Bilbao in Basque Country – uses the same courgettes and green peppers in a rich tomato sauce, yet lightly scrambles it with eggs. Little twists mean that this classic is always evolving.
There are subtle differences between the French ratatouille and the Spanish pisto, even though they're fundamentally the same ingredients. Try them both – and you'll identify the Spanish one thanks to way the onion and garlic are cooked. Fried in olive oil, they're soaked up by the aubergines to infuse them with flavour.
At Corchos, pisto comes made with all the traditional vegetables you'd expect. But it's used to fill pasta tubes, livened up with a hum of fresh pesto, and garnished with curls of parmesan.