Pisto a la bilbaína is a vegetable medley similar to French ratatouille, a mixture of slowly olive oil-poached vegetables, finished by scrambling some eggs along the vegetables. Deriving from the original pisto manchego, the bilbaína version’s (bilbaína meaning from Bilbao, a town in the Basque Country) main difference is precisely the egg addition.
Similarly to pisto manchego, the quality of the vegetables is key in this tapa. Also the veggies need to be poached in olive oil slowly and carefully, to perfection or to your taste, which doesn’t have to be perfect…
The base for pisto a la bilbaína is zucchini. There’s not a clue why at Bilbao somebody decided to add scrambled eggs to pisto, but it was a good decision which we celebrate preparing pisto a la bilbaína for our School of Tapas.
- 2 large zucchini
- 500g (1 pound) ripe tomatoes
- 1 large green pepper
- 1 large red pepper
- 2 onions
- 1 garlic clove
- Plenty of virgin olive oil
- 4 eggs
- Some sugar if needed
- Salt to taste
- Start by processing the tomatoes to a very fine pureé. Set aside.
- Finely dice the onion. Cover the bottom of a large cazuela or pan with olive oil and heat to medium.
- Add the onion and poach on low, for as long as needed until the onion is thoroughly wilted and translucent.
- Dice both peppers while the onion is cooking and add to the pan. Toss to coat in oil and go on poaching until the peppers are cooked.
- Add the zucchini to the pan, diced as well, and keep on poaching until the zucchini is cooked through or soft to your taste.
- Then add the mashed garlic and the pureed tomatoes. Cook for a further 15-20 minutes or whatever is needed for the tomato juices to evaporate and render a thick sauce.
- Add salt to taste and add some sugar only if the tomato sauce is too acidic.
- The pisto can be cooled down and kept in the friidge at this stage.
- For serving reheat it in the pan, crack the eggs on top and let them slowly set. Leave them whole as they are or give them a quick toss to combine with the vegetables. As you can see in the photos, you can also crack the eggs on top of each pisto portion and heat it till the egg white is set.
Tips for a perfect pisto a la bilbaína:
- Pisto a la bilbaína deserves more or less the same tips as pisto manchego. The perfect tomatoes to puree are plum, Roma or San Marzano type, fleshy but juicy at the same time. And with flavor… skip the cardboard tasteless tomatoes so often found in markets.
- Italian type peppers are preferred, but you can make do with bell peppers as well.
- The zucchini can be peeled or not, do as you prefer.
- For perfectly poaching the veggies, patience is a must. There’s no hurrying here, but a slow simmer of the oil for the vegetables to go truly soft and absorb all the flavor of the olive oil.
- Being that the vegetables do absorb quite some oil, the quality of the oil does have some relevance. Use a good extra virgin olive oil.
- The small dotted black cazuelas are a miniature imitation of the very typical large paella pans and very fit for small portions like this pisto tapa.
- If you prefer, instead of cracking the egg on top of the pisto and letting the white set, you can beat the egg in a bowl, then tip it on the pisto and toss to make truly scrambled eggs.
- If you want to serve the pisto in almost bite-sized portions, try cracking a quail egg on top of each instead of regular eggs.
Besides being served in tapa-sized portions, this pisto a la bilbaína can be a nourishing light snack, lunch or brunch in small portions. A well balanced dish that is equally mouth-watering in the Winter as in the Summer. Prepare a ton of it to keep in the fridge for a quick meal. And it freezes beautifully as well…