It's pretty undisputed in my family that if a crown was to be given for cooking, my Aunt Norma would have taken it, and in my family, that is no easy feat. Aunt Norma and my Grandma Jo were sisters and in typical Italian-American fashion they lived across the street from each other with an open door policy. Growing up, my sisters and I spent a lot of time at my grandma's and so Aunt Norma too, was a daily part of our lives. I can still see, as clear as day, Aunt Norma pushing open the front door and coming into the house with a pot of something amazing in her hands.
When I got older and started to cook on my own, my Aunt Norma was the first person I would call with questions. I still have and refer often to her notes. Before I get into this recipe, I want to share one of my 7 million Aunt Norma stories.
I was making my first turkey. I was so excited. Aunt Norma gave me the rundown on how to prep the turkey, how to make the gravy and the stuffing. I was pumped. I spent at that time, what I considered a fortune on supplies and set to make an amazing dinner. Hours in, I was reviewing my notes from Aunt Norma as my turkey tanned in the oven when I saw the section about removing the innarrd bag! My heart dropped, I FORGOT TO TAKE OUT THE GIBLETS. My turkey was toast, the bag had melted inside the turkey. I called Aunt Norma, told her what I did and she said to me, "Well, I got good news for ya and bad news. Bad news is, you can't eat it, good news.... you'll never do that again." I remember telling her how I wish I was as good a cook as her and she interrupted me, to tell me that she wasn't always a good cook (LIE), she told me that you grow and learn from the mistakes you make, so they aren't necessarily a bad thing. She told me about some of her cooking snafus (I totally think she was making them up to make me feel better). Mistakes are how you really learn she told me. I love this memory because Aunt Norma's giblet bag theory, while I don't believe she intended it to be, was a life lesson. You live, you learn, you take out the giblet bag next time.
Now onto Giambotta. Aunt Norma rocked this a lot, it's was one of my dad's favorites, so when she would carry this pot into my grandma's, she would announce upon entering the house, "This is for Peter."
Giambotta (sometimes called Ciambotta) is traditionally a vegetable stew, but we are going to buck tradition a bit today, add sausage and mix up some of the more popularly used veggies. One of my favorite things about this recipe is its adaptability. It's delicious no matter what veggies you use. Typically this dish utilizes potatoes, eggplant, fry peppers and cucuzzi (Italian squash). In the summer I can grab these from my garden, but today we are going to use what we've got, which is one of my favorite ways to cook. So if you have different veggies, feel free to experiment. You really can't go wrong. I mean, it's not like we need to take out the giblet bag.
This recipe feeds 6 - 12, don't have 6 - 12 mouths to feed? Freeze what you don't eat or better yet, share with your neighbors.
WHAT YA' NEED
1 Zucchini (quartered and cut in 1/2 " slices)
1 Yellow squash (quartered and cut in 1/2" slices)
2 1/2 cups green beans (trimmed and cut in half)
1 yellow onion (chopped)
1 carrot, 1 celery and 3 gloves of garlic (I love to chop these three together in a recipe like this)
1.5 lb Sweet Italian Sausage (cut into bite size pieces)
15 ounces chopped tomatoes
29 ounces sauced tomatoes or passata
1 t Oregano
Heat a dash of oil in a large pot and saute your sausage for about 3 - 5 minutes, you want to brown it, but you also want to let all that glorious sausage juice co-mingle with the oil. When your sausage is browned, remove in and place in a bowl. Add your carrots, garlic and celery to the pot and mix well for about 3 minutes, be sure to get the bottom of the pan and integrate any sausage bits that were left behind into the mix!!! Next, toss in your onion and stir, stir, stir for about 3 minutes or until your onions are a nice golden tone. Return the sausage (and any liquid in the sausage holding bowl) back into the pot and stir. Now let's add our veggies one at a time and be sure to stir! Do your squash and zucchini first, stir them for about 5 to 7 minutes to soften them and then add chopped tomatoes and green beans! stir for a few minutes and then slowly add your 29 ounces of passata or sauced tomatoes. add your oregano, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil for a few minutes then lower to a simmer and cook low and slow for at least an 45 minutes, though i love to go real low and let it cook for at least two hours. Just be sure to keep checking on it, stirring and adding more liquid if needed. The consistency of this should be a really thick stew!
Serve with a glorious dusting of fresh parmigiano and a nice chunk of Italian bread!
TAKE NOTE: It's always a good idea to have tomato paste on hand. You can use this to adjust the consistency of the giambotta. Want it thicker, add some tomato paste. Want in thinner, mix some tomato paste with warm water and add. Also, You don't need the sausage, especially in the summer when veggies are glorious and fresh! And last but not least, drinking red wine while you are cooking? don't be shy, toss a lil' into the pot!