Some Neapolitans say this dish is simplified French ratatouille, while others contend that ratatouille is complicated cianfotta. Either way, this stew is a tender medley of seasonal summer produce. While cooking cianfotta, as it’s known in the local dialect (ciambotta in Italian), you want everything to sort of steam in its own juices; you’ll need to control the heat so you don’t need to add any water. In the end, the vegetables should be very soft and almost falling apart and the flavors should all be beautifully married.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 bell peppers, cut into 1-inch squares
2 eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tomatoes, chopped
3 young zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or deep skillet over medium-low heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions and garlic, and season with salt. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 15 minutes.
Add the potatoes and cook for about 10 minutes more, then add the bell peppers and eggplants and cook for 10 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and zucchini, season with salt, and bring to a simmer.
Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are all very soft and nearly falling apart, about 30 minutes. Add a bit of water to prevent sticking as needed.
Remove from the heat, stir in the basil, and serve warm or cooled. Cianfotta improves overnight and will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Reprinted from Food of the Italian South. Copyright © 2019 by Katie Parla. Photographs copyright © 2019 by Ed Anderson. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC
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