Ciambotta is a delicious Italian vegetable stew that's packed full of flavour and colour. It's a very popular summer dish in southern Italy that goes great with some crusty bread to soak up all the wonderful sauce.
If you've always thought of ratatouille as the only way to use up surplus produce from the garden in the summer and early autumn, it's time to discover new options.
Ciambotta may be sometimes referred to as "Italian ratatouille" but the two dishes are a bit different, particularly when it comes to texture.
There are numerous versions of ciambotta you can encounter all over the south of Italy, but most of them have potatoes, which is not something traditionally found in ratatouille. Ratatouille is also cooked to a softer consistency, while ciambotta is a bit chunkier.
What ingredients do you need?
The ingredients in ciambotta may vary considerably, and it's actually difficult to find two recipes that list the same things. Some people like to add beans or chickpeas and herbs other than basil, but I personally think that the combination below is just perfect, texture and taste-wise.
Red onion — The mild flavour of red onions is perfect for ciambotta. You can substitute it with white onion if you like, but the aroma will be more pungent.
Sweet peppers — Any colour of sweet peppers is great, and you can also use a mix if you like. Many ciambotta variations don't use sweet peppers at all, so feel free to skip them if you want.
Aubergines — To make sure the aubergines don't turn out bitter, cube them and salt generously, then allow them to drain for at least half an hour before cooking. Besides making sure your aubergines aren't bitter, this process also draws out the excess moisture.
Courgettes — There's no need to peel the courgettes for ciambotta. Leave the skin on because that's where all the health benefits are.
Fresh tomatoes — You can use canned tomatoes for ciambotta, but fresh tomatoes are so much more flavourful. Feel free to add more if you want, depending on how much you like them.
Potatoes — Any potatoes that are suitable for boiling work well in ciambotta. Make sure you cut them into equally-sized cubes, so they cook evenly.
Fresh basil — Don't substitute fresh basil with dry basil for this recipe. Since this is the only herb in the dish, you want all the flavour of fresh basil. Dehydrated basil tastes a bit more like mint than fresh basil, and the final result just won't be the same.
How do you make ciambotta?
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven and fry the red onion and red pepper for 2-3 minutes on medium heat until they soften a bit.
- Stir in the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds until fragrant. Next, add the aubergines and courgettes and cook for 7-8 minutes until slightly golden.
- Stir in the tomato paste, then add the cherry tomatoes, potatoes, and basil leaves. Add 200 ml water, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine.
- Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-tender. Adjust the seasoning to your taste and serve with crusty bread.
Extra recipe tips
- Cut all the veggies into equally-sized pieces, so they cook evenly.
- Ciambotta is a stew that tastes amazingly the next day as the flavours settle. You can make it a couple of days ahead as it keeps very well in the fridge. It's also a dish that's suitable for freezing.
- You can add some chilli flakes or cayenne pepper when cooking the onions if you want the stew to have a bit of a kick.
If you liked this ciambotta recipe, have a look at some of my other delicious vegan one-pot recipes:
Adzuki Beans Soup with Pearl Barley and Kale
Vegan Spanish Chickpeas and Rice
Vegan Goulash with Mushrooms and Potatoes
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