Lecsó

Made from Hungarian wax peppers, tomatoes, and onions, the best time for this Hungarian ratatouille is the late summer when these vegetables are ripest and most flavorful. Lecsó is even better when boosted with rice or fried eggs and thin slices of crispy sausage.

Ingredients

Yield: 4-5 servings; Total time: 30 minutes

  • 1 kilo (2 pounds) Hungarian wax pepper or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, cut lengthwise and then across into 5 cm (2-inches) long chunks

  • 600 grams (1 ⅓ pounds) ripe tomato, peeled and cut into thick slices (dunk the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute to loosen their skin)

  • 300 grams (⅔ pound) smoked paprika sausage, sliced thin

  • 4 frankfurters, cut into 2 ½ cm (1-inch) pieces

  • 1 large onion, halved and sliced into thin ribbons

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

  • 2 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika

  • ½ teaspoon ground caraway seeds

  • 2 pinches ground pepper

  • 100 grams (½ cup) rice

  • Salt to taste

  • Slices of crusty bread

Directions

  • Step 1: Place the sliced sausages in a large pan or pot and fry them in their own fat on medium until nicely crisped-up, about 8-10 minutes. Then remove the sausages with a slotted spoon and set aside in a small bowl. Keep the rendered fat in the skillet.

  • Step 2: Add onions into the hot sausage fat and sauté until translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Then add sliced wax peppers, tomatoes, minced garlic, paprika, ground caraway seeds, pepper, rice, and 1 cup of water (don’t add any salt at this point as the sausage is already salty). With the lid on, steam-cook the mixture at a low simmer until vegetables have softened and rice is tender, about 20 minutes.

  • Step 3: Stir in the frankfurter slices and the sausages and continue cooking for 2 minutes.

  • Step 4: Taste for salt and some if needed. Serve the lecsó in shallow bowls with crusty bread on the side.

Words of advice

There are many lecsó variations out there. Some people make it without rice and instead beat a couple of eggs into it at the last minute. The dish also works without meat, but in that case it’s especially important to use high-quality and ripe peppers and tomatoes.

I created these recipes with the help of nearly a dozen historical Hungarian cookbooks, adjusting ingredients, cooking times, and methods to reflect my own preferences and tastes of the current day.