We love Ciambotta for so many different reasons. We love the colours in the dish, how it makes the most of summer vegetables at their peak right now, that it is uber healthy and our children love it. But what we love most is that its flavour improves with time and it can be reinvented into so many dishes. This is one of those dishes that keeps on giving.
Ciambotta is delicious on its own. It is great as a side dish or to cook together with fish, sausages, boiled beef or scrambled eggs. Ciambotta can be served tepid or cold. Our favourite is the version we were told about when visiting Sicily. We were told that mothers would hollow out a large loaf of bread and fill it with ciambotta for the family to eat when they went to the seaside. Our children think it’s pure magic – the meal hidden inside the bread. The origin of this style of eating ciambotta is credited to agricultural workers who would bring their food to work stuffed inside a loaf of bread.
Ciambotta is a vegetable stew popular throughout southern Italy and can be made with any mixture of peppers, courgettes (zucchini), aubergines (eggplant), potatoes, celery, tomatoes, onions, garlic, olives, parsley, basil, oregano and saffron. Make whichever version you prefer but ideally whatever is growing in your garden.
Ciambotta (summer vegetable stew)
1 kilo peppers (preferably Romano or the best tasting peppers you can find that are not too sweet), rinsed, ribs, seeds and stem cut off and sliced into 0.5 cm slices
800 grams aubergines (eggplant- about 3 large ones), rinsed, stem removed and cut into 1.5 cm dice
250 grams courgettes (zucchini – about 2 medium ones), rinsed, stem removed and cut into 1.5 cm dice
350 grams red onion, skin and ends removed, cut into 1 cm dice
2 garlic cloves, skin removed and crushed
250 grams tomatoes, rinsed, stem removed and cut into 1.5 cm dice
15 grams flat-leaf parsley, rinsed, dried, leaves removed and finely chopped
2 sprigs basil, rinsed, dried, leaves removed and finely chopped
90 mls extra-virgin olive oil
4 eggs (optional)
1 kilo rustic bread such as Altamura Puglian bread or sourdough
Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add the peppers and 30 mls of olive oil and cook until soft, 10-15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the peppers and place in a large bowl.
Add another 30 mls of olive oil and the aubergine to the saute pan and cook on low heat until soft, about 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Be careful not to let the aubergine stick to the bottom of the pan but ensure that it is thoroughly cooked. If needed, add a bit of hot water to keep them from burning. Remove the aubergine and add to the peppers.
Add 15 mls olive oil and the courgettes to the saute pan and cook over medium heat until cooked, 7-8 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the courgette from the pan and add to the peppers.
Add 15 mls olive oil, the onions and the garlic to the saute pan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until the onions have softened, about 20 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic.
Add the other vegetables back to the pan with the tomatoes. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper accordingly. Add the herbs to the pan (and the eggs if using) and stir through.
If you are stuffing a loaf of bread. Cut the top of the bread off and remove the soft bread inside (this is great for making breadcrumbs). Fill the loaf with the vegetables, add the top back on. Enjoy!