I made a pot of Zacusca you guys ! I can hear what you’re thinking: what the heck is Zacusca ?
Simply put, Zacusca is the only way I can get the BatMan to eat Eggplant. I know, don’t even get me started. Basically I am talking about a thick roasted pepper eggplant tomato sauce.
It is the finest vegetable spread your taste buds will ever encounter, or the perfect pasta sauce to hang on to the ridges of some nice rigatonni.
You can also spoon it over perfectly grilled chicken or enjoy it peasant style, on bruschetta or Tartine garnished with your favorite fresh herbs.
I remember the shelves in our pantry being filled with jars of Zacusca in the fall. Not to mention that indescribable smell of roasting peppers and eggplants. Forget about it !
Depending on your fondness for the lovely eggplant, play around with the quantities. I used an extra-large eggplant here, or two regular size ones. However, I share my eggplant loving soul with an eggplant hater, so normally I would use twice as much eggplant. But I compromise you know, in the hope that he will come around some day. He still won’t touch the roasted eggplant dip, but Zacusca is a winner.
Tough it is tomato season, I opted for canned San Marzano tomatoes in this recipe, because well you know, they have my heart, in a soup or in a sauce, it is the only way! They are super sweet and get extra thick in the zacusca, and that’s what I’m after.
Traditionally I would go for Passata or fresh tomatoes, cut into wedges and cooked down into a thick sauce together with the roasted peppers and eggplants. So your call really, If you prefer to use the fresh tomatoes, that will taste amazing as well. You might have to cook them a little bit longer until most of the moisture has evaporated.
Zacusca is the perfect delicacy to store in your pantry, if you want to can it in jars. Unexpected guests ? No problem! Open up a jar of this vegetable spread and spoon it over some crusty bread, sprinkle it with whatever fresh herbs you have around and you got a meal fit for a king. Trust me kids, we lived off of this stuff!
I’m telling you, rustic food is soul food, it touches the depths of your heart. Just remembering the beginning of fall, when the whole town in the country side would be permeated by the smell of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant simmering away, i can actually smell it all over again. It gives me goosies …And it makes me miss my grandpa you know… This zacusca recipe, and this entire blog would not even exist if it was’t for him, his way of connecting to my little soul through his food making and story telling… Oh, how I miss that man…
Tough making Zacusca might seem overwhelming at first, it is actually a very simple process, just like making some sauce. You roast the peppers and eggplants first, then you cook it together with onions, garlic and tomatoes until thick and concentrated. Easy peasy even I can do it 😉
Zacusca Vegetable Spread Recipe (Eggplant Tomato sauce )
- 2 oz x 28 cans San Marzano tomatoes crushed ( or 5 lb fresh tomatoes)
- 4 large bell peppers
- 1 red chile pepper optional
- 2 eggplants
- 2 leaves bay
- 1/2 c Italian parsley roughly chopped or your favorite herbs
- 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion diced
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 1 /2 tsp sea salt + more to taste
- Heat up your grill or cast iron griddle and char the peppers and eggplants until black on all sides. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap until cool enough to handle. Peel the peppers and discard the skins, seeds and cored. Transfer the cleaned roasted peppers to a food processor.
- Clean the roasted eggplant and scoop the flesh into the food processor bowl together with the roasted peppers. Process until hoped but still with a little rustic texture. Set aside.
- In a heavy bottom pan add a lug of olive oil and sauté the onion until translucent. add the garlic an cook for about 30 seconds just enough to release its flavors. Add the roasted peppers, eggplant, crushed tomatoes and bay leaves to the pan.
- Give everything a nice stir and bring to a gentle simmer.
- Cover partially with a heavy lid and cook for 1 hour, making sure to stir a few times during the cooking process.
- After 1 hour remove the lid and cook an addition 30 minutes until the sauce has reduced into thick sauce to your liking. Season to taste with sea salt and finish with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Stir in the parsley and allow to cool.
- Serve on pasta, bruschetta or tartine style garnished with your favorite herbs.