This one might tickle an Italian memory or two. CIAMBOTTA! Put this one on my list of “favorite things ever”. It is a wonderful vegetable stew that usually made its entrance sometime during the summers at the Calabrisi house, when zucchini and tomatoes were in abundance. It was the kind of thing you could eat pounds of and not tire. It was always an arrow headed straight for my heart when the aroma reached my senses.
What is it? The answer to that is.. it can be several things. It is considered a stew – but it also can be a soup. Traditionally speaking, it is a vegetable stew or concoction that is a very typical Southern Italian dish – sometimes called Ciambotta Napoletana and a healthy example of the Mediterranean Diet. It can be a side dish and you might compare it to the French Ratatouille. It can also be a soup or stew used as an entrée served with crusty bread. No matter how you serve it, be prepared to have it disappear as the flavors of the ingredients are so perfect together that it is difficult to stop consuming it. Whatever you decide to call it – it’s really good!
Variations: Actually, it can be made with pancetta or even sausage, if you like a little meat or pork flavor. It isn’t necessary, in my opinion.
Fresh tomatoes straight from the garden may be used or canned tomatoes are fine also.
You will find recipes for it using eggplant or beef or other things. I prefer, it to this day, the way Loretta served it – pure, rustic, and simple – no need to gild the lily. To me, it doesn’t seem to need anything else. Some things just don’t need embellishment!
My mother, Loretta, would often remind us that you could add shrimp or Cannellini Beans or even a little pasta in it if you wanted to. As nice as any of that sounded, I never wanted anything else in it. Like Goldilocks, I thought it seemed “just right” the way she made it.
The way you see it here is the way Loretta, most often served it – no meat, straight from the pot, with crusty Italian bread, usually from DiRienzo’s or Di Lascia’s Bakery in Binghamton, NY, and a little grated cheese. My father usually had some red pepper flakes handy to throw on his dish. He liked the hot stuff!
More good news – CIAMBOTTA can even be made ahead and frozen for later use.
Let the chopping begin!
Serves: 4 as a main course or 6 as a side dish
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 10 minutes
3 Medium Zucchini – cleaned and unpeeled – cut coarsely
3 Large Yukon Gold Potatoes – cleaned and unpeeled – cut coarsely
1 Medium Onion – sliced thinly
2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely
1/3 Cup Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Basil
3 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Sage
2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Parsley
1 Bay Leaf
42 Oz. Chopped Tomatoes with juices
1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
1 Cheese Rind – Parmigiano or other ( just a piece for added flavor)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving
Put olive oil in a pan and add the zucchini, potatoes, onion, garlic, herbs, and bay leaf – cook and stir – about 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, cheese rind, salt and pepper. Mix well.
Cover and cook on medium heat for about an hour or until the potatoes are fork tender.
When finished – remove the bay leaf and rind if any is left and discard.
Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
Serve with Crusty Italian Bread and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or your favorite grated cheese.
PARLA COME MANGI!
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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography