Zacusca (Eggplant Pepper Spread)

Eggplant may be a challenging vegetable for many to cook. It doesn’t have a ton of flavor on its own, but it does a great job of soaking up the flavors of other things. Think of eggplant as a flavor sponge. This is one of the reasons you’ll see it baked or grilled as a cooking method, because it soaks up all that deep smoky flavor. An eggplant is mostly water, so it doesn’t have much caloric value. While it’s not very nutritionally dense as far as vitamins and minerals, it does have a decent amount of fiber and is rich in phytochemicals, such as anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants. These are particularly dense in the skin of the eggplant.

Traditionally, zacusca recipes remove the skin from the eggplant, but if you’re using a food processor, the skins will break down into the spread. Just give them a rough chop first.  Alternatively, you can stuff your leftover skins like you would a stuffed cabbage. Then if you topped that off with the zacsuca, what a meal that would make! 


  • 4 medium eggplant (approximately5 pounds)
  • 8 medium red pepper
  • 2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups tomato sauce, no salt added
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp peppercorn
  • 1 Tbsp caster sugar
  • 3 bay leaves

Wrap the oven racks or trays with aluminum foil. Preheat the oven to 450F. Poke a few holes in the eggplant and peppers. Place the peppers and the eggplant on top of the aluminum foil and roast them in the center of the oven. Set the timer for 20 minutes. You can also grill your vegetables for a smokier flavor.  

After 20 minutes, one side of the peppers should be charred. Turn the peppers around and place them back in the oven for another 20 minutes. Take the peppers out of the oven and set aside on a plate. Turn the eggplant over and roast them for another 25-30 minutes. Remove the eggplant from the oven and set aside to cool. 

Allow eggplant and peppers to cool to room temperature, then remove the stems of the peppers and discard the seeds and skins. Place the flesh on a wooden chopping board and chop the peppers until you get a rough paste. Carefully slice the eggplant in half and scoop out the flesh. Chop in a paste similar to the peppers. * You can put the peppers and the eggplant in a food processor to save time. 

Heat a large, deep pan with the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion and fry for about 3 to 5 minutes until translucent and soft. Add the chopped eggplant and peppers, the tomato sauce, the vegetable oil, salt, pepper, bay leaf and sugar. Mix well until everything is fully combined. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove the bay leaves and taste the zacusca. Adjust the seasoning if needed and let it simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes.  Allow to cool before serving. This recipe can also be stored in the fridge in an airtight container or canned. Makes 10 servings.

Nutrition facts: 
Serving size: ¾ cup 
Calories: 155; Fat: 6.1g; Carbs: 24.5g; Fiber: 10.4g; Protein: 4.0g; Sodium: 485.6mg 

Recipe adapted from: Authentic Zacusca (100+ year old Romanian recipe) | Yuzu Bakes


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