In lecsó—the Hungarian version of ratatouille or shakshuka—paprika is the star and not merely a seasoning. The end result is a tangle of tender peppers, hunks of sausage, juicy tomatoes, and lightly caramelized onions all bathed in a sauce that builds itself—rich, piquant and vibrantly red.
To emulate robustly smoky and savory Hungarian sausage, use two grocery store staples: bacon for rich smokiness and kielbasa for texture and spice. Sweet and subtly hot, Hungarian wax peppers are the traditional go-to, though hard to find in the U.S. In their place, an easier-to-source blend of yellow bell peppers and mildly spicy banana, cubanelle or Anaheim peppers are used.
Paprika’s earthy-sweet notes complement both the peppers and sausage, while giving the stew an especially luscious consistency. To round out the meal, serve with crusty bread, but it also is delicious spooned over rice, mashed potatoes or nokedli, Spätzle-like Hungarian dumplings.
TIP: Don’t add the tomatoes until the end of cooking. Their freshness and bright acidity balance the richness of the stew.
In the end, it seemed a bit “watery” to us, and given that a lot of the vegetables release moisture, the amount of water at 1 1/2 cups is too much and could be scaled back to 3/4 cup. But the overall flavors were delicious! We served ours with cooked spaetzle, but you could also serve over rice or mashed potatoes.
Hungarian Pepper Stew
- 8 oz. kielbasa or other smoked sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced into ¼-inch half-moons
- 1 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil
- 2 oz. bacon, chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
- Kosher salt
- 2 medium yellow bell peppers (about 1 lb. total), stemmed, seeded and cut into ¾-inch pieces
- 4 banana peppers or 3 cubanelle or Anaheim peppers (about 1 lb. total), stemmed, seeded and cut into ¾-inch pieces
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 4 tsp. sweet paprika, divided
- ¾ tsp. hot paprika or ¾ tsp. sweet paprika plus ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 lb. ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
- In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, combine the sausage and oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a plate; set aside.
- Reduce to medium, add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the onion and ¼ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
- Add both types of peppers, the garlic, 1 teaspoon of the sweet paprika, the hot paprika and ½ cup water. Scrape up any browned bits, then cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the peppers begin to soften, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in 1½ cups water, cover partially, and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are fully softened, 12 to 15 minutes.
- Stir in the tomatoes, sausage and remaining 1 tablespoon sweet paprika. Cook, partially covered, until the tomatoes release their juices but have not broken down, 3 to 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt.
Recipe adapted by Courtney Hill for Milk Street