Home MealsAppetizers Zacusca – Romanian Eggplant and Red Pepper Spread
zacusca recipe romanian spread

 

Zacusca recipe – Romanian, vegan vegetable spread with eggplants and peppers.

Now that is a long title. But I had to name it somehow, the Romanian name zacusca, doesn’t really describe what it is.

 

ZACUSCA RECIPE – ROMANIAN EGGPLANT AND PEPPER SPREAD

So what is zacusca for the rest of the world? It is basically a bread spread made every autumn by women all over the country.

Well, Romanian people do not need a description of this. I cannot imagine that there is any Romanian on Earth, who doesn’t know what zacusca is. Together with sarmale, supa de galusti, salata boeuf and vinete are probably the best known and loved foods all over the Romanian territory.

 

eggplant spread romanian Zacusca   Romanian Eggplant and Red Pepper Spread

 

INGREDIENTS FOR ZACUSCA

  • Vegetables:

The main ingredients are gogosari and eggplants, which fill the markets there in autumn. Mountains and mountains of gorgeous eggplants and gogosari and other vegetables.

My grandmother used to buy like 10 – 20 kilograms of each of them and then spend a few days grilling them on the stove (we lived in an apartment in the city, so there was no possibility to make that in the garden like other people do), peeling them, cooking them and then preserving the jars.

Gogosari are some kind of Romanian red bell peppers, sweeter and thicker than the usual red peppers. As I cannot even find a translation of the word and as I never ever seen gogosari outside Romania, I can assure you now that zacusca can be made with normal red bell peppers.

  • Tomato puree:

You will also need tomato puree%name Zacusca   Romanian Eggplant and Red Pepper Spread, simple pureed tomatoes with no added salt, sugar or anything. Also not tomato paste or tomato sauce.

  • Oil:

Neutral tasting oil, either canola or a mild tasting sunflower oil. Sunflower oil is traditional, but make sure it is a mild sort. Don’t use olive oil.

  • Spices:

Salt and black peppercorns%name Zacusca   Romanian Eggplant and Red Pepper Spread, bay leaves%name Zacusca   Romanian Eggplant and Red Pepper Spread and some honey.

The amount of honey you use is according to taste. It will depend on how acidic the tomato puree is, some cans are more acidic than other, so taste and decide accordingly.

You normally have to grill the vegetables but if you don’t have the possibility or don’t feel like doing it, than just place the stuff in the oven and let cook until the skin blackens and the vegetables are soft.

The result is the BEST vegetarian/vegan bread spread you have ever tasted. And as you can make a lot of it and then preserve the jars you can enjoy this for quite a long time.

It can also be eaten as a dip or with noodles like a normal pasta sauce, you can enrich the taste of other sauces with it, you can mix a few tablespoons of it with sour cream or cream cheese and eat it over baked potatoes and so on.

 

eggplant spread Zacusca   Romanian Eggplant and Red Pepper Spread

 

HOW TO MAKE ZACUSCA?

How to prepare the vegetables for zacusca?

  • Grill the eggplants on a hot grill until the skin blackens all over and the eggplants are very soft. See this post for Vinete – Roasted Eggplant Salad for more information on preparing eggplants to make zacusca or vinete.
  • Grill the bell peppers until the skin blisters and blackens.
  • Alternatively you can place the vegetables on baking trays lined with parchment paper and place them in the hot oven at 200 degrees Celsius/400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20-30 minutes for the bell peppers and about 40 minutes for the eggplants, turning the veggies about 3 times in the meantime. Make sure that the vegetables are really soft (especially the eggplants) before removing them from the oven.
  • Cover them with plastic wrap. This procedure makes the peeling afterward easier.
  • Let the vegetables cool separately. Discard the juices released by the eggplants, but keep the juices released by the pepper.
  • Peel carefully, chop very roughly.
  • Place the eggplants in a large sieve and let drain well for about 1 hour.
  • Place the peppers in another container to cool, but reserve the juices they release during this time.

How to cook zacusca?

  • Chop the onions. Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onions until translucent.
  • Add the roughly chopped eggplants and red bell peppers, pureed tomatoes, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt.
  • Add about 300 ml/ 10 fl.oz/ 1 ½ cups water and the juices released by the peppers as well, the mixtures should not be too dry.
  • Cook everything on a very low flame for about 1 ½ hours, stirring regularly.
  • Adjust the taste with salt and honey. You might need a bit more honey, depends on how sweet the peppers and the tomatoes were.
  • Puree the vegetables roughly (there should still be small bits in the zacusca, it should not turn to a paste) with a hand-held mixer.
  • Pour everything in the jars, close with the lids and can.

How to can zacusca?

  • Sterilize your jars while your vegetables are cooking. I normally place the jars and their lids in a big pan filled with water.
  • Bring the water to a boil and cook the jars and the lids for about 5 minutes. Take the jars and lids out and let drain on a clean kitchen towel. Here you will find more information on sterilizing jars.
  • For preserving the jars I use the same huge, quite flat pot that I use for sterilizing the jars.
  • Place a folded kitchen towel on the bottom of the pot, put the jars on the towel taking care that they don’t touch each other, then pour enough hot water to cover the bottom half of the jars.
  • Let everything come to a boil again, then boil the jars for 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Take the jars out of the water immediately and let cool at room temperature.
  • Keep the jars on shelves in the cellar or a colder room.

 

 

eggplant spread zacusca 200x200 Zacusca   Romanian Eggplant and Red Pepper Spread

Zacusca - Romanian Eggplant and Red Pepper Spread

Yield: 4-5 jars
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Zacusca recipe – Romanian eggplant and red pepper spread.

Ingredients

  • 4 medium aubergines
  • 6 large red bell peppers
  • 2 large onions
  • 500 g/ 1.1 lbs/ 2 ¼ cups pureed tomatoes (See note 1)
  • 120 ml/ 4 oz/ ½ cup vegetable oil (See note 2)
  • about 20 black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons honey, more to taste
  • 2 scant tablespoons fine sea salt, more or less to taste

Instructions

    Prepare the vegetables:

    1. Grill the eggplants on a hot grill until the skin blackens all over and the eggplants are very soft. See here for more information on preparing the eggplants.
    2. Grill the bell peppers until the skin blisters and blackens.
    3. Alternatively you can place the vegetables on baking trays lined with parchment paper and place them in the hot oven at 200 degrees Celsius/400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20-30 minutes for the bell peppers and about 40 minutes for the eggplants, turning the veggies about 3 times in the meantime. Don't take them out before they are really soft.
    4. Take everything out of the oven and cover them with plastic foil. This procedure makes the peeling afterward easier.
    5. Let the vegetables cool, peel carefully removing the seeds from the peppers as well, chop very roughly and keep separated.
    6. Give the eggplants into a sieve and let drain well for 1 or 2 hours.
    7. Let the peppers in another bowl and make sure to reserve the juices they release.



    Cook zacusca:

    1. Chop the onions. Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onions until translucent.
    2. Add the roughly chopped eggplants and red bell peppers, pureed tomatoes, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt.
    3. Add about 300 ml/ 10 fl.oz/ 1 ½ cups water and the released juices from the peppers as well, the mixtures should not be too dry.
    4. Cook everything on a very low flame for about 1 ½ hours, stirring regularly.
    5. Adjust the taste with salt and honey. You might need a bit more honey, depends on how sweet the peppers and the tomatoes were.
    6. Puree the vegetables roughly (there should still be small bits in the zacusca, it should not turn to a paste) with a hand-held mixer.



    Can zacusca:

    1. Sterilize your jars while your vegetables are cooking.
    2. I normally place the jars and their lids in a big pan filled with water. Bring the water to a boil and cook the jars and the lids for about 5 minutes. Take the jars and lids out and let drain on a clean kitchen towel. Here you will find more information on sterilizing jars.
    3. Pour everything in the jars, close with the lids and preserve.
    4. For preserving the jars I use the same huge, quite flat pot that I use for sterilizing the jars.
    5. Place a folded kitchen towel on the bottom of the pot, put the jars on the towel taking care that they don't touch each other, then pour enough hot water to cover the bottom half of the jars.
    6. Let everything come to a boil again, then boil the jars for 20 to 25 minutes.
    7. Take the jars out of the water immediately and let cool at room temperature.
    8. Keep the jars on shelves in the cellar or a colder room.

Notes

  1. Simple pureed tomatoes with no sugar or salt added. Not tomato paste/concentrate or tomato sauce.
  2. Neutral tasting oil like canola or mild sunflower oil. Not olive olive.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1 jar
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 573 Total Fat: 30g Saturated Fat: 3g Trans Fat: 1g Unsaturated Fat: 25g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 3192mg Carbohydrates: 81g Fiber: 21g Sugar: 34g Protein: 9g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.

 

You may also like

19 comments

Kathleen 26/08/2017 - 15:31

Hi Adina,

I am so happy to see this recipe! My husband and I traveled to Romania this summer and once I tried zacusca, I ordered it with almost every meal. I even bought some jarred zacusca at the supermarket before we left (definitely not the same!). SO excited to try this–thank you!

Kathleen 🙂

Reply
Adina 26/08/2017 - 20:33

Hi Kathleen. I do hope you try to make zacusca, we all love it so much and it is definitely better than the bought jars. Let me know. 🙂

Reply
Anca 28/08/2017 - 12:41

Zacusca 🙂 I think it’s been an year since we had zacusca. I’m not keen on the shop-bought one, it’s not the same as the homemade one. I should surprise my husband with a couple of jars of zacusca, he likes it.

Reply
Sissi 31/08/2017 - 16:16

It looks fantastic! And reminds me of the Serbian ajvar I made several times and loved (I always added some roasted chilli peppers for a hot kick!). I think zakuska means “appetiser”/snack” in Russian… I wonder if it’s a coincidence or the origin of the name (Romanian isn’t a slavic language after all….)

Reply
Kim 01/09/2017 - 04:17

This looks and sounds incredible, Adina. Since I don’t eat bread very often I would love to try it on chicken or a nice milk white fish. What do you think? Thanks!

Reply
Adina 03/09/2017 - 19:37

I am sure it would go well. Or maybe have as dip for veggies or on one of your wonderful low-carb breads.

Reply
Steliana 02/10/2018 - 13:39

Hello Adina – My family, as yours, has been making it for as long as I can remember. We now live in NY and we tried hard to find gogosari…. and we did. I am not sure if you found them since your posting but I just wanted to share that they are called Hungarian Cheese Peppers. In NY, we came across one farm that had them and what’s even better was that it was a pick-your own farm so my mother and I went and it was a glorious day. We had a blast picking kilos and kilos of peppers to make zacusca and what sweetened the deal was that this farm also had gogonele which my father likes to pickle every year as well so double win! Thanks for your post. I enjoyed seeing a alternate version of the recipe.

Reply
Adina 02/10/2018 - 19:44

Hi Steliana.You are so lucky to have found gogosari. I live in Germany and I have never seen them here. But I am able to get gogonele once or twice in autumn , so at least that’s something.😊 Red bell peppers make a decent substitute though.

Reply
Mircea 20/02/2019 - 14:59

Hi Steliana. I’m very glad to find out that we can find gogoșari and gogonele. I also live in NY, recently moving upstate from the city.
Would you mind sharing the name of the farm where you found them?
Thanks!

Reply
Colleen Ann Swain 19/10/2018 - 12:34

Just visited Romania so was looking for the Zacusca r and Cherry Brandy recipes.

Reply
Adina 19/10/2018 - 13:58

Hi Colleen. Everybody seems to be impressed with zacusca when in Romania. 🙂 🙂 I make it several times every year and about half the jars I make I have to give to some person or another, after having it once, they all ask me for another jar. I have never made the cherry brandy – visinata – myself because I would need sour cherries for that and I was never able to buy or pick them here. Too bad, it is so good!

Reply
Adelina 31/10/2018 - 00:09

You forgot about ghebe. That’s the real deal. Zacuscă de ghebe.

Reply
Adina 31/10/2018 - 07:02

I’ve never had that, I have heard of those mushrooms but never even saw them myself. My grandmother’s biggest fear when I was growing up was dying poisoned by the wrong mushrooms, so we never had mushrooms in any form. But the classic zacusca is made with eggplants and peppers, the rest are variations.

Reply
Ana 19/02/2019 - 10:33

We always make 3 typs of zacusca. The one with eggplants, with beans and with mushrooms. They taste differently but I like all of them 🙂
We also make it in autumn, and multiple jars of each so this is a weekend activity for the whole family in the garden, it is sort of a tradition.

Reply
Adina 19/02/2019 - 12:34

Hi Ana, zacusca is the best. I make it with some added mushrooms as well sometimes, but not too many jars because my children hate mushrooms and otherwise they love zacusca and I don’t want to spoil it for them. 🙂 I have made it with beans once and found it delicious, but I had the bad experience of all my 5 or 6 jars going completely bad in the cellar in less than 2 weeks. A catastrophy, the bean zacusca even started to ooze out of the jar…. 🙁 Do you have a recipe for bean zacusca that keeps well in jars? Or do you only makes as much as you can eat in a short period of time?

Reply
Andra 14/08/2019 - 15:01

Hi guys, just wanted to share with you that you could also find gogosari under the name of tomato peppers…! Living in Montreal and being able to find those in the local markets sometimes, not always, and of course only in the fall…Cheers! Andra

Reply
Adina 14/08/2019 - 15:47

Hi Andra. Thank you for the information, I hope it will help some people. Unfortunatelly I am too far away, I wish I could find some here. 🙂

Reply
Christie 27/08/2019 - 18:28

Sheepnose pimento peppers are the actual name for “gogosari”. I’ve seen them more often in the past years in the farmer markets (in Toronto area).

Reply
Adina 27/08/2019 - 22:06

Good to know, thank you. The name is new to me. I wish I had access to gogosari again.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Would you like to know when a recipe is published? We will notify you as soon as one has been published!