If you have traveled the world, you surely noticed that anywhere you go you find Italian restaurants in large numbers. In fact, it is the only cuisine you are almost to find in any country you travel to. That and McDonald’s of course, at the other end of the scale. But Italian cuisine is quite different from North to South. The Giambotta recipe comes from the Southern part and is prepared from Napoli to Calabria. Here is what you need to know about Giambotta.
Giambotta: A late Summer Dish
Giambotta is also called Ciambotta, depending on the region of Italy you are located. In Calabria you can also hear it called “ciambrotta”, in Basilicata “ciammotta” and in Campania you will find it as “cianfotta” on your restaurant menu. But in the American Italian community, it is usually known as Giambotta.
This vegetable stew is a favourite in Southern Italian cuisine, as summer is starting to decline and falls comes along. That’s because there are plenty of vegetables to choose from at that time of the year. It also explains why there are so many variations of the ingredients included inside the recipe. However, the most common vegetables that find their way inside the giambotta are usually: Italian eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, potato, onion, and tomatoes. To that, you have to add garlic, basil, and olive oil.
Served as a Main Course or a Side-dish
Again, according to the region where you will be staying in Italy, you can find various ways the giambotta is served (for info: it is pronounced like “jam-baught”, despite the spelling). It can be brought to the table warm or served at room temperature. Although it is usually presented as a main dish, which vegetarians will love, it can also come along as a side-dish. Then, the main course will consist either of grilled meats (often sausage), or swordfish. People who eat it as the main course will sometimes serve it with pasta, polenta or rice. Normally, families make large portions when they cook it, so they can keep some for the next day, when it tastes even better.
In which Category of Food is Giambotta?
Italian considers Giambotta to be part of the category they call “minestre.” In North America, we associate the word minestrone, to a typical Italian soup, made mostly with vegetables. However, this appellation in its country of origin is wider. It includes various meals that are somewhere between thick soup and stew. If an Italian person would eat ratatouille (which is French), he would consider it as part of the minestre category. In fact, it is quite typical for European countries to have their own type of vegetable stews, similar to the Giambotta. But it is not exclusive to this part of the world, since Asian countries also have something similar, which they call stir fry.
From the Garden to the Oven
Many Italian families, in Europe, but also expats around the world, keep a garden of fresh vegetables during the warm months. Those from the South often use them to prepare Giambotta. Then, it accompanies most meals, throughout the end of summer and the beginning of the fall season. A typical garden Giambotta would include tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, onion and zucchini, sautéed in olive oil with fresh basil on top.
It is a lot of work to cook Giambotta, or should we say that it is time consuming, as you need to prepare all the vegetables before cooking them. The word “giambotta” also means a mess or a mix of things. That is what giambotta is, in reality: A mix of different vegetables, all thrown together. Those not fortunate enough to have a garden can also open the refrigerator, grab the vegetables they can find and mix them all up. Whatever they end-up with, will be some kind of “Giambotta,” since it’s mostly a matter of how you cook them together that makes it recognizable as a Giambotta.
Here is the recipe of Nicky D Cooks, owner of “Authentic Italian Cookies Biscotti and Pizzelle.” That should give you some idea of how to go about, if you decide to try and cook one yourself!
Neapolitan Giambotta, by Nicky D Cooks:
¼ c extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium eggplants (peeled)
1 yellow squash
1 hot pepper (seeded)
2 scallions (sliced)
28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
Fresh Basil ¾ ounce (about ¾ cup) diced
Salt and Pepper to taste
Pecorino Romano Cheese
First, start cutting all the vegetables into bite size pieces. Once you have heated a few tablespoons of olive oil, on low, add them to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Let it cook for a few minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, let it cook again, and stir once in a while. When the eggplants are soft, taste and adjust with salt and pepper again.
As the meal is almost ready, add the basil and let it cook until vegetables are done. Garnish with grated cheese and olive oil before serving.