Italian Vegetable Stew (Ciambotta, or Giambotta)
I love one-pot cooking, especially when healthy meets creative inside a Dutch oven or soup pot! Ciambotta, a rich and hearty Italian vegetable stew, is chock-full of harvest bounty, offering tons of nutrition and satisfaction—even without the meat.
My twist on the traditional Italian recipe usually containing eggplant changes things up for soup suppers. I omit the eggplant (hubby doesn’t like it) and get creative with the vegetables I choose, which means a “new stew” each time I make Ciambotta. I go to the refrigerator and create this Meatless Friday Meal with what’s on hand in the crisper. But for first-timers and newcomers and those who prefer to go by the book, you’ll enjoy the recipe provided. Then serve Ciambotta on its own or with crusty bread and a cheese board. It will definitely move to the top of your family’s wish list for veggie dinners this winter.
When I’ve served Ciambotta to family and friends, they’ve asked me how I keep vegetables uniformly al dente, a feat that seems challenging when making a stew. It’s simple, really, but don’t skip this step included in the recipe. To avoid the mushy-vegetable-dilemma, sauté any firm veggies—winter squash, potatoes, onions, turnip, and celery—in a small amount of oil first. By adding the zucchini and kale at the last minute, just before adding the broth, I keep the prefect tender/crisp texture.
One last thing before we head to the kitchen. This is the best-kept secret to making homemade stews and soups that have a gourmet flavor. Use the liquid from previously boiled vegetables instead of using canned broth alternatives. Instead of dumping vitamin-packed broth down the drain, I pour it into a large glass measuring cup until cool and then pop it into the freezer. That way I always have several containers of vegetable broth in the freezer ready and waiting for soups, stews, or gravies. That said, for those times when I’m out of broth, I use canned broth or bouillon. Both are quick and easy, and they work just as well when you know which brands your family likes. My go-to vegetarian bouillon is Better Than Bouillon – Seasoned Vegetable Base.
Okay, let’s start chopping those veggies. We’ll have Ciambotta in no time!
- ½ medium yellow onion, chopped into ½-inch pieces
- 3 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and chopped into ½-inch pieces
- 2 carrots, halved lengthwise, halved again, and chopped into ½-inch pieces
- 1 small turnip, diced into ½-inch pieces
- 1 cup peeled butternut squash, diced into ½-inch pieces
- ½ pound green beans, trimmed and cut into ½-inch pieces (in a pinch use frozen beans)
- 1 to 2 gold potatoes, peeled and diced into ½-inch pieces
- 1 large garlic clove, pressed or finely chopped
- 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise, halved again, and cut into ½-inch-thick slices
- 1 bunch Italian kale, deveined and chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp rolled dried sage
- ½ tsp salt (or to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper (or to taste)
- 1 cup water
- 1 can cannelloni beans
- 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes in seasoned juice (optional) *
- 1 ½ quarts good vegetable broth
- On a large cutting board, beginning with the onion, chop all your vegetables into uniform sizes as indicated for ease of cooking and an attractive look. Remember that it takes a sharp, wide-blade chef’s knife and a good cutting board (wood or plastic) to chop through tough veggies like onions, carrots, and turnips—also some practice!
- Heat oil in a 7-to-8-quart heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions, celery, carrots, turnips, squash, green beans, potatoes and garlic. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, about 7 to 10 minutes.
- When sautéed veggies are just starting to become tender (when pierced with a fork), add zucchini, kale, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and rolled sage. Sauté one to two minutes. Additional oil may be added if the pot is too dry.
- Add water and stir, scraping the bottom to deglaze the pot, which loosens the little flavor-packed bits of caramelized vegetable pieces. Bring to a boil for ½ minute.
- Add broth, tomatoes,* and cannelloni beans. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until zucchini and kale are slightly softened, about 5 to 7 minutes, or to desired tenderness.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with crusty bread and cheese board.
*I prefer a golden broth and omit the tomatoes half the time. Try it both ways to discover your favorite version.
Copyright 2017 Catherine A. Hamilton