When I was growing up I wasn’t very appreciative of the traditional cuisine of my Italian heritage. As a matter of fact, when in grade school, I ate the same thing every day for lunch: Oscar Mayer Ham & Cheese Loaf (you know the square mystery meat with the little dots of yellow cheese through it) with French’s yellow mustard on Wonder Bread.
My mom, Doris, who is not Italian, was the one who cooked for us kids at home. We ate what was popular at that time — things like baked chicken, meatloaf, macaroni goulash and tuna casserole. Mom was a good cook and I certainly didn’t go without. But I actually preferred the American foods to the Italian foods back then.
Which brings me to this post. Once in awhile my Grandma Lista would cook for us kids and if it was her homemade manicotti, or her “Sunday sauce” with the chunks of meat, I was a happy little boy. But if it was Giambotta (we said “jum-brought”) …ugh! I hated it! I would cry at the thought of having to choke down those awful stewed vegetables.
Fortunately, as I grew up so did my palate and my appreciation for ethnic foods of all kinds. Today I relish a steaming bowl of this summer vegetable stew with lots of grated Pecorino Romano on top and some good crusty bread for dipping.
I had to do a little research on this dish since I only remembered it as a family thing and had not seen it in a cook book or menu before. Thanks to the internet I was able to learn a few things about Giambotta. First, it can be called many things: giambotta, ciambotta, giambrotta, ciammotta, cianfotta, and ciabotta. Most Italian-Americans pronounce it either “jum-b(r)ought” or “cha-bawt.” It seems to come from the southern areas of Italy (Grandma’s family was from Calabria) and is a popular late summer dish and often served with grilled sausage. Some recipes called for the addition of hot peppers. One popular food blog shared a recipe that included sliced hot dogs (apparently enjoyed by many Italian-American families in the New York city area). I never remember Grandma making Giambotta with any meat — just lots of garden fresh veggies and tomatoes.
So, however you pronounce it, and whether you add the sausage or not, I hope you try this hearty southern Italian vegetable stew called…
Giambotta (Grandma Lista Style)
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
3 TBSP Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic – minced
2 medium Yellow Onions – sliced
2 stalks Celery – roughly chopped
3 medium Carrots – peeled and roughly chopped
2 large Potatoes – peeled and cut into 1″ dice
1 medium Eggplant – cut into 1″ dice
1 large Green Bell Pepper – seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
1 large Zucchini – cut in half length wise and sliced in 1/2″ half circles
1 large Yellow Summer Squash – cut in half length wise and sliced in 1/2″ half circles
1 (28 oz) can Whole Peeled Tomatoes – broken up with a spoon or by hand
1 cup Chicken or Vegetable Stock (homemade or store bought)
1/2 lb Green Beans – cut in half and blanched in boiling water
1/2 cup Fresh Basil Leaves – roughly chopped
1 tsp Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper – or to taste
Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese – to sprinkle on top
1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and blanch Green Beans for 1 minute — drain into a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a large heavy bottom pot (with a lid) over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, celery and carrots and cook stirring occasionally until onions are translucent 8-10 minutes.
3. Working while the onion mixture cooks — chop and add the vegetables in the following order: Potatoes, Eggplant, Green pepper, Zucchini & Yellow squash. Cook and stir for 10 more minutes.
4. Add tomatoes, stock, salt, pepper and blanched green beans. Stir everything together, cover pot and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
5. Stir in chopped basil.
6. To serve, ladle giambotta into bowls and top with a generous amount of pecorino Romano cheese. Serve with some crusty Italian bread if desired.
There you have it Giambotta like Grandma Lista made it. I hope you give this a try before the fresh produce of summer is gone. If you don’t have a garden you can pick up everything at a Farm Market (or the grocery store). And feel free to add your own personal touch like some hot peppers… some Italian Sausage… or even sliced hot dogs!
So until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”