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Giambotta, Italian summer vegetable stew

Giambotta ©DPaul Brown

I don't know about you, but I would have thought that a cookbook that was spun off from a foul-mouthed primetime premium cable drama series should be nothing more than a schlocky gimmick, a way to squeeze a few extra bucks out of a fawning audience. So imagine my surprise when my great aunt back in Schenectady said that the recipes in The Sopranos Family Cookbook
were nearly identical to our family's repertory. Knowing I have an interest in documenting our Italian-American culinary heritage, she sent me a copy of the book, with hand-written notes slotted in alongside certain recipes, with an introductory note:

Hope you enjoy this cookbook. I never watched The Sopranos. The recipes are the closest I've ever seen to the peasant meals my mother cooked. She did not use a lot of hot stuff like red pepper or pepperoncini. The red pepper would be on the table along with the grated cheese for all meals.

Love as always,

Aunt Anne

The cookbook is meant to be a compendium of real Italian-American recipes gathered by a fictional chef from the other fictional characters in the eponymous television show. "Chef" Artie Bucco (played by John Ventimiglia) references his own family's roots in Avellino, near Napoli, and other Napolitani who emigrated to the neck of northern New Jersey where The Sopranos takes place. Considering Aunt Anne's progenitors hailed from Benevento, close to both Napoli and Avellino, and adjacent Abruzzo, and that they emigrated to Upstate New York, it comes as little surprise that there are broad similarities between the recipes of our families, fictional or otherwise.

One of the annotated recipes is for giambotta, a rather simple stew of fresh summer vegetables. Aunt Anne notes that her mother would use zucchini rather than eggplant. That's fine by us, since DPaul doesn't care for eggplant, and anyway one can never have enough zucchini recipes during the summer.

Summer veggies, ©DPaul Brown

Not that it isn't always the case, but this is one dish where ingredients really matter. Giambotta is nothing but vegetables and heat, so use only the freshest, ripest vegetables you can get your hands on; if they come from your own garden, so much the better. And never mind the blemishes. "Ugly" vegetables are still delicious.

Just 30 minutes of cooking is all it takes to turn a pot full of raw vegetables into an amazingly fragrant, flavorful and summery stew. Paired with a slice of Italian bread, it is at once light and satisfying. Those peasants knew how to eat right.

Giambotta
Adapted from The Sopranos Family Cookbook

2 medium red peppers, cored, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 large tomatoes, cored and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 medium waxy potatoes (like Yukon gold), peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 small carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 small zucchini, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large onion, diced
1/4 c. water or stock
2 Tbsp olive oil
Several fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
Salt and pepper to taste

Layer the cut vegetables, starting with the hardier ones such as potato and carrot, into a large Dutch oven or stockpot; sprinkle each layer gently with salt. Add water and oil and put over medium heat. In very little time, the vegetables will begin to break down and release their juices, and what started out as a pot of dry veggies will become a juicy stew. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender.

Remove from heat, and stir in the freshly torn basil. (Don't tear the basil too far ahead as it may discolor.) Serve hot or room temperature, with Italian bread. Optional: Drizzle with very fresh, fruity olive oil.

Related:

Mele Cotte's mom's giambotta (say that five times fast) is made with meat, for an interesting twist. She also approves of the Sopranos Family Cookbook.

Kitty from My Husband Hates Veggies honors her grandmother by staying true to her recipe. 

Chef John at Food Wishes says his family pronounces it "cha-bought." My family would say "jam-bott."

  • my mother-in-law is from Filgine val d’arno in Tucsany, for her it is Bulgione
    http://divinacucina.blogspot.com/2008/08/tuscan-summer-dishes.html
    she makes it with or without tomatoes….
    my favorite summer stew!

  • and this is a new over-roasted version I learned this summer- from my Sicilian vegetable vendor
    http://www.foodconnect.com/article/Market-to-Table-Buglione

  • Mom

    Sean, it always pleases me so to see you care so much about our family traditions and history. Since I was never an “inspred” cook, it tickles me that you have become so accomplished in creating these dishses that I sometimes cooked or never cooked. Seems I should be taking cooking lessons from you!

  • Judy — thanks for that! I’m sure there are many, many variations both in name and in ingredients. It’s fascinating to see.
    Mom — Anytime! 🙂

  • This looks great. I was a fan (despite its prejudice) of the Sopranos but assumed, like you, the cookbook was nonsense. Have you read the lost ravioli of hoboken. You’d find it interesting if you have not

  • Ooh — that does sound interesting! I’ll add it to my ever-growing list of books to read.

  • Okay, I could not in a million years figure out that you are Italian-American! Nice– you have a fanTAStic culinary heritage! And thanks for the rec of the cookbook– I too thought it was some lame gimmick (uh, Desperate Housewives anyone?), but I guess your great-aunt proved me wrong!

  • I make reference to my heritage somewhat frequently, though it’s been a while since I documented any of our recipes. I do want to get back to it. My mother is FBI (Full-Blooded Italian), and her hometown of Rotterdam, NY, (a suburb of Schenectady) is almost entirely Italian-American. Her father’s side hails from Reggio di Calabria, the very toe of the boot.

  • Jo

    In my house it was zucchini and yellow summer squash – crookneck or straight.
    I always spelled it ciambotta, those pesky phonetics!

  • I think ciambotta is the correct spelling, with giambotta being a dialectic version that came about in the US. Have definitely heard from friends in Italy that they see ciambotta with a c and not g.

  • Thank you for the link! I think I need to make this again, soon!

  • My pleasure! And yes, make it soon, and often. 🙂

  • Tim

    I love the Sopranos, but would have never expected to take its spin-off cookbook seriously, let alone buy a copy. It’s got some great recipes though, looking forward to seeing you try a few more of them for your blog!

  • Oh for sure — there are many other hand-written notes from Aunt Anne in the book! I’ll be cooking from it for a while.

  • This looks really delicious! I think I’m going to try it this weekend.

  • Wow…that handwriting looks JUST like my Nonna’s….must be the Italian handwriting gene!!
    Just found your blog….I’m just over the hill from the Napa Valley…if I could fly, It’d take me ten minutes to be on HY29…too bad I have to drive!
    I’ll be a regular reader…thanks for all the fun stuff today!

  • I think it’s an old lady thing. 🙂 I imagine they were much stricter in grade school back then.
    Happy you stumbled onto Hedonia. We’ll try to keep you amused.

  • diana m buchan

    enjoyed recipe for giambotta, brought back memories of my mom’s recipe. My grandmother was from Benevento, maybe we are distant cousins? Diana M.

  • hgalluzzi

    Like you, I assumed The Sopranos cookbook would be a joke. It was a gift from my parents and I quickly learned this to be my go-to book for real Italian-American food. The sfogiatelle & stromboli (honey balls) recipes were an unexpected suprise! This stuff is the most like my grandmother’s cooking. That side of the family hails from Sicily, Calabria, & Bari. The giambotta is one of the best recipes.

  • rsterlizzi@msn.com

    Hey! My grandmother was from Benevento! Anna Bianci was her name. Maybe we too are cousins.

  • Anything is possible! My Benevento ancestors’s name was Altieri.

  • SebastianFortLaud

    Oh…I am so making this next weekend! I bet the leftovers would be fabulous on top of chicken breasts, roasted in the oven.

  • Mmmm, yes.

  • I too adore this cookbook. It always seemed very authentic to me, but I’m not Italian – definitely in spirit though! Going to make the Ricotta Pineapple Pie this week. It’s another favorite!