In Pixar’s movie, Ratatouille, the food critic is dismayed at being served a peasant dish, ratatouille. But as he tastes this dish, made so well, so lovingly, with the perfect co-mingling of flavors, he experiences a complete transformation. It could happen.
Then there’s giambotta, an Italian vegetable stew, and first cousin to ratatouille. I don’t know which came first and which is the spin-off. Both dishes were born in regions of countries where they tend to use fresh, local ingredients and let the inherent flavors do the talking.
Both dishes have nearly identical ingredients: zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, onions, garlic, potatoes, and tomatoes. (Note: these are all in season right now here in CT!) With giambotta, you cook the ingredients together (for the most part) and allow the flavors to meld. Generally, with ratatouille, you cook the ingredients separately and then bring them together so as to retain the the distinct flavor of each item. Generally.
There are several variations on this dish, some approaching giambotta. Julia layers the cooked ingredients into a casserole. Remy’s ratatouille (from the movie) arranges the raw ingredients into a casserole. At Cooking For Engineers, the ingredients are cooked together, but in a very deliberate, methodical order (like a precision giambotta).
I don’t have a family recipe for giambotta, so I borrowed Rachel Ray’s. I figured that since her meals are under 30 minutes, the flavors would meld modestly but still retain some individuality. And in fact, that’s how it happened. I was faithful to the recipe except fpr leaving out the bay leaf. It probably didn’t need the chicken broth either. (For a slight variation, see Sara Moulton’s recipe.)
- garlic, onions, zucchini, Bianca bell pepper from Sport Hill Farm
- potatoes (pink inside) from Maple Bank Farm
- eggplant from Daffodil Hill Growers
- tomato puree from Don Taylor Farms, Danbury, CT (from the freezer)
- basil from my garden
- chicken bone broth made from chickens from Stone Gardens Farm and Center Brook Farm, New Milford, CT (from the freezer)
- extra-virgin olive oil from Italy
- bread: local loaf from Bantam Bread
- cheese: Womanchego from Cato Corner Farm
You can serve giambotta as a side dish. You can serve it over pasta. You can make a meal of it by starting with sauteed meat (like Italian sausage). don’t care for meat? Try adding cooked beans instead. You can also drain off the liquid and use it as the filling in a vegetable lasagne or even in a fritatta. You can freeze it and do any of those things to bring summer sunshine to the dead of winter. As they say, the possibilities are endless.