Tocăniță de Cartofi is a delicious, comforting and easy to make Romanian-style potato stew. It’s a very popular dish enjoyed throughout the country and can be prepared in a variety of ways.
This recipe is courtesy of my in-laws and is definitely a family favourite. It can be enjoyed as a side dish, served here with some grilled pork neck chops, called Ceafă de Porc, or it can be served on its own as a main course.
What You Need for Tocăniță de Cartofi
- Potatoes: The star of this dish is the humble potato. Yellow-fleshed potatoes will give you the best flavour and texture in this particular recipe.
- Carrot, Onion and Red Pepper: These three vegetables help build a flavourful base for the stew. Feel free to use any kind of onion and sweet red pepper you like, such as bell pepper or red shepherd peppers.
Carrot is not often added to Tocăniță de Cartofi, but my in-laws like to include it for some added sweetness and nutrition. They also sometimes add chopped parsley root, which is very easy to find in Romania, but not as easily found in North America. So, if you have parsley root on hand, feel free to add that as well.
- Tomatoes and/or Tomato Paste: Sometimes my in-laws only use fresh tomatoes to flavour their Tocăniță de Cartofi, other times they use it in combination with tomato paste. Adding tomato paste will obviously help bump up the tomato flavour and deepen the colour of the stew. I’ve enjoyed this dish both ways – made only with fresh tomatoes and with a combination of the two – and think it tastes great either way.
- Slănina: You can add various types of smoked meats to Tocăniță de Cartofi. Slănina is a type of bacon common throughout Romania and other parts of Eastern Europe. Sometimes it’s smoked, other times its cured. If you can’t find Slănina near you, you can substitute smoked bacon or pancetta. You can also use smoked pork ribs or your favourite smoked sausage or kielbasa.
- Fresh Herbs: Garnishing with some finely chopped parsley and dill adds a pop of colour and flavour.
- Garlic: And lots of it! This recipe calls for 4 cloves, which is what I would consider to be the bare minimum here. Feel free to use as much as you like!
- Herbs and Spices: A simple combination of paprika, dry thyme and bay leaves are used here.
What Do You Serve With Tocăniță de Cartofi
When Tocăniță de Cartofi is prepared with minimal amounts of meat or with no meat at all, it can be served as a side dish alongside grilled pork, sausage, chicken or fish. Here, it’s served with some grilled pork neck chops (Ceafă de Porc la grătar), a very popular, flavourful and affordable cut of meat in Romania.
In the winter, leading up to Christmas, many Romanians fast and do not eat meat. Tocăniță de Cartofi is often prepared vegetarian, without the use of meat, and enjoyed as a hearty and comforting main course.
Tocăniță de Cartofi (Romanian Potato Stew) with Ceafă de Porc la Grătar (Grilled Pork Neck Chops)
For the Tocăniță de Cartofi:
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 ounces smoked slanina sliced into thick, bit-sized pieces, substitute smoked bacon or pancetta
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 medium carrot diced
- 1 medium red bell pepper diced
- 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 pounds yellow-fleshed potatoes peeled and cut into large chunks
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper to taste
- 2 medium tomatoes cut into large pieces
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
For the Pork Chops:
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon dry onion flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- 4 thin-sliced pork neck chops substitute pork loin chops
For the Tocanita de Cartofi:
- Pre-heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and slanina. Cook, stirring, until golden brown and slightly crispy, around 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towel and reserve the fat in the pan. Set aside.
- Add the onion, carrot and bell pepper. Season with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until soft and translucent, around 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, 60 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, 60 seconds. Add the potatoes and stir to combine.
- Add enough water to just cover the potatoes. Add the paprika, thyme, bay leaves and season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Stir to combine, bring to a simmer, cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, around 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stir to combine, cover with a lid and cook until the tomatoes have softened, around 6 minutes.
- Add the cooked slanina, parsley and dill, and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning, adjust with salt and pepper to taste as desired. Serve with the grilled pork chops when ready.
For the Pork Chops:
- In a bowl, combine the paprika, smoked paprika, garlic, onion flakes, thyme, salt, pepper and avocado oil. Stir to combine.
- In a large bowl or zip-top bag, combine the pork chops and marinade. Massage to coat and refrigerate 1 hour to overnight.
- When ready to cook, preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Add the pork chops and cook, flipping occasionally, until slightly charred all over and the thickest part of each pork chop reaches 145F, around 12 minutes total. Transfer to a tray, tent with foil to keep warm and let rest 5 minutes before serving with the Tocanita de Cartofi.