Zacusca Recipe

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Zacusca recipe – the best roasted vegetable spread of Romanian origin, in other words a roasted pepper, eggplant and tomato spread to be enjoyed on crusty bread or garlicky bruschetta.

zacusca

Zacusca

It’s the finest vegetable spread your tastebuds are bound to encounter, or it could be the perfect pasta sauce to hang onto the ridges of rigatoni or sink into the dips of orecchiette.

Traditionally you’ll want to enjoy it peasant style, spooned straight out of the jars onto crackling Italian crusty bread that’s still steamy. Think Tartines finished with fresh chopped herbs or grilled smoky bread rubbed generously with garlic, aka bruschetta. Breakfast, lunch, snacks, unexpected guests, midnight cravings… you opene up a jar of this Zacusca and watch it disappear before your own eyes.

It’s the staple of my childhood, what soul food means to me, the flavor and nostalgia of it all. Making this recipe gives me goosies every time and makes me deeply miss the man in the photo.

Raw wooden pantry shelves meticulosly lined with the recycled jars year after year and piled up high all the way to the very top where the tallest jar touched the ceiling. It was this and the big jars of Pickled Cauliflower / Giardiniera that were the most prized provisions. They were meant to hold you over until the following harvest but let’s be honest, you simply could not keep up with the demand of this delicacy.

Zacusca recipe

The Flavor Profile

A great combination of flavors from your garden harvest to start with, but the authentic depth of savory flavor here comes from the roasting of the eggplants and peppers. You’ll want to char the heck out of their skins until they collapse and that smoke permeates deeply through their flesh. The same concept like making roasted eggplant dip / Baba Ganoush. Ideally this will be done on a cast iron flat griddle but the broiler will also do the job.

red bell peppers + eggplants

Peppers to Eggplant Ratio

You’ll want to aim for about equal quantities of red bell peppers and eggplants, however the recipe is forgiving so you can tailor the ratios to your preference. Traditionally red Kapia sweet peppers were used, same family as the bell pepper but not as popular in the Americas hence the recipe calling for the common bells. (Note: I suspect those bags of mini sweet peppers at the market are indeed Kapia and I use them in our all time favorite roasted pepper salad).

Roasted pepper and eggplant spread in Jars

About the Tomatoes

Traditionally a homemade Passata di pomodoro is used as a binder that cooks down into the thick delicious spread, but this was simply because the rest of a Romanian’s + Italian’s family pantry is filled with bottles upon bottles of this simple tomato juice or Sugo. You could certainly use freshly harvested tomatoes from your garden  (blanched first) or just reach for my old time favorite can of organic San Marzano tomatoes. The best for soup and sauces, I came to prefer using the canned tomatoes, giving them a rustic crush and into the sauce they go. I say sauce because that’s really what we are doing here, making a thick rustic vegetable sauce, the real stuff for canning.

Zacusca

On Storage

This recipe yields the perfect amount to store in the fridge and enjoy within a couple of weeks. It can also be frozen up to 6 months or so, or canned for the pantry.

How to Make Zacusca

Roasted vegetable spread

Zacusca
5 from 1 vote

Zacusca Vegetable Spread

Classic Zacusca recipe - the best roasted vegetable spread of Romanian origin, in other words a roasted pepper, eggplant and tomato spread to be enjoyed on crusty bread, garlicky bruschetta or your favorite pasta.
Print Recipe
Prep Time:20 minutes
Cook Time:1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time:1 hour 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 extra large yellow onion diced
  • 4 lb large red bell peppers (8 to 10 peppers)
  • 3-4 eggplants
  • 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes lightly crushed (or 5 lb fresh tomatoes)
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional for heat)
  • 2 leaves bay
  • 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt + more to taste

Instructions

  • Wash the pepper and eggplants and using a pairing knife poke the eggplants in couple of spots to prevent them from bursting during cooking. Heat up your outdoor grill or indoor cast iron griddle ( or broiler) and char the peppers and eggplants until black and smokey on all sides. Transfer to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap until cool enough to handle.
    4 lb large red bell peppers, 3-4 eggplants, 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Peel the peppers and discard the skins, seeds and core. Transfer the cleaned roasted peppers to the bowl of a large food processor. Clean the roasted eggplant and scoop the flesh into the food processor bowl together with the roasted peppers. Using the PULSE button process until chopped but still with some rustic texture. Set aside.
  • In a heavy bottom pan add a lug of olive oil and sauté the onion with a pinch of salt softened, translucent and begins to get a little color. Add the chili pepper and stir well, then the crushed tomatoes with their juices, the roasted peppers, eggplant, and bay leaves to the pan.
    28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes, 4 lb large red bell peppers, 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes, 3-4 eggplants, 1 extra large yellow onion, 2 leaves bay
  • Sprinkle in the smoked paprika, give everything a nice stir and bring to a gentle simmer.
    1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • Cover partially with a heavy lid and cook low and slow for 35 to 45 minutes or until desired thickness is achieved. Stir often to prevent sticking and burning of the natural sugars on the bottom.
  • After 45 minute remove the lid and observe the sauce. If further reduction is desired continue cooking down the sauce to your liking. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste with salt and pepper, remove from heat and finish with a light drizzle of good olive oil. Transfer to jars and refrigerate or enjoy with bread, spooned on bruschetta or tossed with pasta.
    1.5 tsp sea salt + more to taste

Nutrition

Calories: 162kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 465mg | Potassium: 952mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 5997IU | Vitamin C: 243mg | Calcium: 57mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Romanian Italian
Keyword: zacusca
Servings: 10 people
Calories: 162kcal
Author: Florentina

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One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    I’m so happy to have found this zacusca recipe, not only is it incredibly delicious but it doesn’t contain cups of oil like most recipes online. I’m going to make a double batch to can with the rest of my eggplants from the garden, it’s my most favorite variation of this spread that I have ever had. Thank you for sharing your recipe Florentina!