A big bell pepper with a ding in it, half of a large tomato and a handful of small ones, an eggplant, miscellaneous potatoes, and a couple of onions — I’m cleaning out my vegetable supply and it’s a perfect occasion to make ciambotta.  

Don’t be surprised if you have never heard of ciambotta (sometimes spelled giambotta or cianfotta).  You won’t find it on many restaurant menus, but you can find versions of it in just about any home kitchen in Southern Italy.  It is a vegetable stew made from whatever vegetables are in season.  Though you could eat it hot, it really tastes best when it is just warm. Like a lot of stews, the flavor improves the next day.   I can make a whole meal of ciambotta, but it’s good as a side dish, too, with sausages or chops or chicken.  Eat it plain, sprinkled with basil, extra virgin, or grated cheese, or mixed with scrambled eggs.  Stuff it in a crisp hunk of Italian bread for a great sandwich or toss it with some cooked pasta.  It’s all good.

Ciambotta (pronounced something like giam-boat) isn’t fancy or fussy and it is easy to make.  In fact, in the Italian dialect of the region my family was from, to say that something is a “big giamboat” is to say that it is a big mixed up mess.

Trim  all of the vegetables and cut them into bite size pieces.  You can salt the eggplant if you are concerned that it may be bitter and want to drain off the juices, but I don’t often do that anymore.  Saute the onion in some olive oil, and add garlic if you like.  When the onion is tender, you stir in the remaining vegetables.  Quantities or varieties are not really important and one more or less pepper, onion or potato won’t be a problem.  Sometimes I add zucchini, or green beans.  Some cooks add a hot chili to the mix.  You can put in parsley or oregano if you like, but I think fresh basil, added at the end of the cooking time to protect its delicate flavor, is best.  Fortunately, my garden still has some small basil leaves.

CiambottaIf you are one of those people who likes your vegetables crunchy, this is not the dish for you.  By the end of the cooking, the eggplant and tomatoes will pretty much melt into a sauce and the potatoes will absorb the flavors of the other ingredients.  Ciambotta is nothing if not comforting and rustic — I’m always amazed at how good it turns out.

This recipe is one that appeared in my book, 1,000 Italian Recipes, (John Wiley & Sons).


Serves 4 to 6

1 medium onion

1/4 cup olive oil

4 plum tomatoes

2 potatoes, peeled

1 medium eggplant

1 medium red pepper

1 medium yellow pepper

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves, extra virgin olive oil or freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or   pecorino romano

Trim the vegetables and cut them into bite size pieces.  In a large skillet, cook the onion in the oil over medium low heat until tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant,  and peppers.   Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the vegetables are tender and most of the liquid is evaporated, about 40 minutes.   If the mixture becomes too dry, add a couple of tablespoons of water.   If there is too much liquid, uncover and cook 5 minutes more.

Serve warm or at room temperature plain, or drizzled with olive oil, or sprinkled with basil or cheese.

VariationCiambotta with Eggs:  When the vegetables are ready, beat 4 to 6 eggs with salt until blended.  Pour the eggs over the vegetables.  Do not stir.  Cover the pan.  Cook until the eggs are set, about 3 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

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1 Ciambotta | consider the sauce { 11.21.12 at 2:45 AM }

[…] While it was cooking, I went looking for other recipes, and was surprised – I don’t know why – to find Scicolone has a blog. […]

2 Anita { 04.19.15 at 10:56 PM }

Hi Michele,

Back in the summer of 2013, America’s Test Kitchen did a show that featured Ciambotta. While I do really like the show and regularly record the episodes, it bothered me that they criticized the dish for its watery sauce and over-cooked vegetables. I didn’t think they understood the dish at all.

I don’t usually write letters to cooking shows, but I just had to let ATK know that there were many ways to make Ciambotta. I explained how my Nonna made her Ciambotta. I also sent them the link to your website. You did such a great job introducing this wonderful dish!
I hope they got in touch with you.

The letter I sent them is pasted below.

Best wishes,
August 18, 2013

To America’s Test Kitchen:

I am a big fan of America’s Test Kitchen (and especially Julia) and usually love the recipes from the shows, but you guys were incredibly judgmental about what you thought was the “proper” way of preparing Italian Vegetable Stew (Ciambotta).

You made it seem like there should only be one definitive way of making this dish and that is America’s Test Kitchen’s way. Julia even made a number of disparaging comments about how “thin and watery” most Ciambotta sauces are and that the vegetables turned out “mushy” in many of the traditional recipes they tested. Those are pretty strong opinions on the traditional method of preparing this dish! As a third generation Italian American, that bothered me a lot.

I wish someone on America’s Test Kitchen had mentioned that Ciambotta is a heritage dish that many Italian American families made on “meatless Fridays” and also in tough economic times throughout the last century. Some social context about the dish would have been helpful, since most people have never heard of this great dish. What you may not realize is that Italian Americans are as proud and protective of their recipes for Ciambotta as they are about tomato sauces, meatballs, and other regional Italian/Italian American dishes.

My maternal grandmother was Neapolitan and always made her Ciambotta just with tomatoes (fresh in the summer and canned in winter), onions, zucchini, Cubanelle peppers, and string beans. Hers was a simple but very flavorful thin sauce made with a bit of salt, pepper, garlic, dried oregano, and grated Romano cheese. She browned the vegetables and then simmered them for almost an hour in the tomato sauce until they were quite soft and silky. That is the way we all loved it and that is the way I continue to make it for my family. The sauce was perfect for dipping crusty Italian bread into, too. The Ciambotta could be served hot, cold, or at room temperature. It was even good in a sandwich! Other families may have added potatoes, eggplants, tomato paste (to thicken the sauce), other seasonings, and even hot peppers or sausage to their Ciambotta pots, but my grandmother did not. She also added beaten eggs to the finished stew. It was a very personalized dish, you see. One of the best treatments of Ciambotta I have seen comes from Michele Scicolone (

I’m all for learning new ways to make one of my favorite dishes in the whole world, but please don’t make viewers think that America’s Test Kitchen’s version is better than the ways countless Italian Americans have made this dish for generations. Tradition should still count for something.

3 Michele Scicolone { 04.20.15 at 12:52 PM }

Hi, Anita,

Nice to hear from you. I am glad to hear that you like my version of Ciambotta!

Whenever I have watched ATK it seems they often take a simple, uncomplicated recipe and make it complicated with extra steps and ingredients. I think the problem is that if their cooks didn’t find something to criticize about a classic recipe, they wouldn’t have a subject for their show. Their main concern is changing the recipe. They may believe that their version, probably with a thick sauce and firm textured vegetables is better, but Italians and Italian Americans do not eat ciambotta that way and much prefer the lighter interpretation with vegetables soft and well done. The only firm vegetables in an Italian kitchen are either headed for the salad bowl or not cooked yet!

I think you and I are fortunate to have enjoyed Ciambotta the way it was meant to be made by our Neapolitan ancestors. Thanks for writing.

Regards, Michele

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