VEGGIE OVERLOAD! My Grandma's Giambotta (Italian Vegetable Stew)

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I feel a little bit sad for anyone who never had a chance to taste my Grandmother’s cooking. If you had happened by my Grandparents home anytime from the late 60s to mid 90s, chances are you would have found my Grandma in her kitchen, apron on over housedress, preparing what seemed to be an endless array of dishes and nibbles. Nothing she made seemed to be for the purpose of a specific mealtime – you were just as likely to be treated to a mini smorgasbord at 12noon or 4pm – but whatever time it was, you’d better be hungry.

My Grandmother’s recipes were simple, rarely written, and mostly derived from the dishes she had helped my Great-Grandmother prepare years earlier. Italian-American wartime meals, made with ingredients that could stretch the family’s budget – escarole instead of spinach, chicken or pork instead of the beef or lamb that was reserved for holidays, but never skimping on the olive oil. My Grandmother’s recipes had strange names, or often, no real name at all – a favorite dish that was frequently on her table was a sort of savory pasta and cheese cake, made in a rectangular pan, cut into large bite-sized squares to be eaten with your fingers at room temperature. She called it, simply, “Macaroni”. The times when she added small chunks of pepperoni to the dish, she’d refer to it as “Pizza”.

Sadly, my Grandmother’s health has made it impossible for her to cook anymore, nor can she communicate her unwritten recipes and techniques to us. Often, when I am attempting to recreate a recipe, I will close my eyes and try to remember the sights and smells from her kitchen. Lidia Bastianich, my favorite celebrity chef, comes the closest to my Grandmother’s style of cooking, and often Lidia’s instructions will rekindle for me a lesson in cooking technique that my Grandmother taught me years earlier….always salt as you go, toast your spices in hot spots in your pan, and when in doubt, add more oil.

My Grandmother’s Giambotta was always one of my favorites of her recipes, and over the years, I have prepared it many times, both faithful to her recipe, and also with my own interpretations. It’s a recipe that seems so simple, but trust me, it’s a hit. I served a big pot of it a few years back at a Superbowl party, and it went just as quickly as the big pot of beef chili that I had spent many more hours slaving over. In the following recipe, I have given instructions for how I prepared it this particular evening, as vegetables can easily be interchanged in this recipe depending on what’s on hand, and what looks best at the market. The constants, in my opinion, should be the yellow squash, the tomato, and the addition of some kind of starch. My Grandmother would have used potatoes, not chick peas, but my Grandmother loves chick peas, so I think she would approve.

My Grandma’s Giambotta

 

  • 2 leeks, whites only, washed & sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 3-5 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 green zucchini, sliced & quartered
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced & quartered
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach, or other leafy green
  • 5 roma tomatoes, canned or fresh, seeded & chopped
  • 1 can chick peas (ceci beans, garbanzos), rinsed
  • 1 & 1/2 cups water or stock
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • dried pepperoncini flakes, dried oregano, salt & pepper to taste
  1. In a large stockpot or dutch oven (like my beloved Le Creuset beauty seen here), sautee your onions and leeks over medium heat for 7-8 minutes in about a 1/2 cup of olive oil. Does that sound like too much oil? Just do it.

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  2. Move the veggies to the sides of the pan, and create hot spots for your pepperoncino flakes and garlic. Just a minute or two, then stir to incorporate. Have you been salting as you go? If not, add some now.

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  3. Now do the same with your dried oregano, which is always more fun when you get to crush the leaves from a full dried plant (bags of these are easy to find in Italian or Greek specialty stores).

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  4. Add your zucchini and squash, giving them a few minutes to spend some alone time at the bottom of the pan. Are you still salting?

  5. Do the same with the spinach, and then the tomatoes. Add your liquid, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat and cover. Allow to simmer long enough for vegetables to break apart, but before they get mushy.

  6. 15 minutes or so before serving, add the beans and parsley.

 

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Serve with a hunk of italian bread to soak up the delicious juice.bloggiambotta4.JPG

 

For years, I always thought this stew was called “Giam-BaLta”, because that is how my Grandmother pronounced it, or, in true Italian-American style, she would say “Giam-balt”. I tried to describe the dish once to a chef in an Italian restaurant where I waited tables, only to have him tell me that the dish does not exist, and it was only a hodge podge recipe of leftovers from my Grandmother’s kitchen. Happily, a google search produced not only the proper spelling, but a wide variety of variations on the recipe.

Thanks to Ellie from Kitchen Wench for the inspiration to post a nostalgic recipe!

11 comments to VEGGIE OVERLOAD! My Grandma's Giambotta (Italian Vegetable Stew)

  • Thank you for sharing these memories of your nan for the nostalgia event – this looks like a beautiful dish full of goodness and flavour, hearty and delicious! I love the rules that your nan cooked by, they sound good to me, and how could they be wrong with results like these! :)

  • What a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing! I love my mother’s Giambotta. She served it over rice. I could never say it as a kid and used to call it Chumbutt! ahh!

  • I have no idea how to cook but love your blog for the stories.

  • This dish looks delicious and like something I would love! My grandmother actually wrote down her recipes, so I have those. My grandfather, however, didn’t really write any down. Thankfully, my mom would call him up, ask him how he made something, and then write it down. This definitely looks like a homey dish and I can’t wait to make it!

  • Linda

    This dish looks great. I like vegetables. I remember my Irish grandmother made a dish and we thought she said chambott but now I realize it was Giambotta. My grandfather was 100% Italian so she learned to cook Italian. She made several varieties. One that I like and still make is Made with Italian sausage well browned with garlic. Add potaotes and any vegetable, I like green beans. Cover with water. Add a can of tomato sauce or tomatoes, whatever you like. Cook until vegetables are well done. Sal and pepper. I like my juice to reduce a bit. Very good.

  • christopher Rinaldi

    I’ve come to learn that Giambotta really can be anything you want depending on where you are from. My mother’s (Roman) is like a stew, my father’s (Basilicata) is similar to the all veggie style. My favorite is one from a small spot in NYs Little Italy. We’ve been eating here for many years and one time couldnt decide what to get. So, the waiter says he’ll surprise us. Out comes a mixture of chicken, pork chops, steak and sausage, browned in garlic then topped with sauteed onions, peppers and tomatoes. Oh, and toss in some small red potatoes. Cut the meat in large chunks, serve it family style and you’d better be hungry. It’s not on the menu, so I asked what it was called and he simply said “Giambot”

  • Darci

    I don’t get home often enough but when I do my grandma always has the “chambaut” ready for me (and stuffed peppers, and eggplant parm, and stuffed artichokes….). Until this post I had no idea it was actually called giambotta. Love your stories and your recipe.

  • angie

    I’ve used this recipe twice now, and made a few alterations along the way. Bottom line – very yummy and satisfying! I live in Mexico, so I add some local ingredients such as cayote, a little serrano chili, and white beans. Oh, and crumble some strong hard cheese such as a sheep parmesan on top when serviing! I liked cooking in about 3/4 chicken broth to 1/4 water – made it more savory.

  • Airedales Rock

    Just made this as I was looking for a recipe for extra celery, so threw that in. Needed a low-carb dish so instead of the beans (which I do love) added saute hamburger. Didn’t have any homemade stock so used chicken stock. Looks wonderful and very tasty.

    PS, my hubby doesn’t go for the veggies either but will in soup.

  • AndreaT

    Just stumbled across your blog post when searching for giambotta recipes. For as long as I can remember, my mom has made her Aunt Lena’s “Jim Both” recipe by memory, and we could never find a written recipe, just trial and error every time. (I’d been searching for “broths” assuming it was mispronounced). This month’ Woman’s Day featured a recipe for giambotta though and noted the pronunciation can leave off the last “a” and voila – I’d found it! Their recipe was a little different (no yellow squash, plus cabbage and pepperoni), so I’ve been searching for others. My mom’s has onion, zukes, yellow squash, tomatoes, potatoes, and green beans :)

  • Charlie P

    Yes! Giambotta. Love it. Your grandmother’s kitchen sounds just like my Nana’s kitchen did when she was alive. She was the matriarch of the family, and there was food, food, and more food; always. I am sooooo happy to have grown up as a Sicilian-American.

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