Though south Florida may not experience all of the typical characteristics of fall weather like colorful turning leaves, brisk cold weather and an impending cold winter season, we can still get in the fall spirit! Nothing says autumn like cozying up with a big bowl of stew and some fresh baked bread after a long day. Stews are a common staple in Italian kitchens and they come in many varieties. Most often, a large pot of stew is prepared and then eaten throughout the week by an entire family. After reading about these traditional Italian stews, you may very well want to adapt this practice in your household as well!
Vegetarian Stew or Ciambotta
For those avoiding animal products, there’s definitely an Italian stew for you! Ciambotta is typical southern Italian dish made entirely from vegetables. Sometimes it’s also eaten as a side dish! A typical Cilento ciambotta is made with eggplant, potatoes, peppers and tomatoes in a shallow pan. Sometimes there will also be potatoes, green beans, zucchini and chard in this stew as well. Don’t limit yourself! Add as many delicious fresh vegetables as you want. They make for ideal ingredients in a hearty and healthy vegetarian stew. Try Ciambotta for a Meatless Monday meal that the whole family will love.
Fish Stew or Cioppino
This fish stew originates from American-Italian cuisine coming off the coasts of California and was adapted from various similar recipes that originate from the port city of Genoa. Cioppino is usually made with the ‘catch of the day’ which is typically a combination of crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and any fish that may have been harvested. These ingredients are then combined into a large pot along with fresh tomatoes and white wine and steam boiled together creating an incredibly aromatic and delicious meal that is best served with fresh baked sourdough bread. This kind of stew is perfect for Friday fish meals and the upcoming holidays!
Meat Stew or “Gulasch”
Interestingly enough, Italians are also lovers of goulash, a traditionally more eastern European recipe. For regions of Italy that once belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the culinary influences have stuck around, particularly in the northern regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige. Italian “gulasch” (colloquially known also as “ragout”) is comprised of beef slow simmered in a red wine sauce seasoned with rosemary, red paprika, bay leaf, marjoram and lemon zest. The beef becomes unbelievably tender and pairs incredibly well with a serving of polenta or side of freshly baked crusty bread. This meat stew is typically eaten on Sundays and is perfectly filling for the fall season.
Last but not least, we’ve arrived to the most infamous of Italian stews which is known worldwide as MINESTRONE! While this traditional thick soup has many regional variations, we can all agree that it’s probably one of the top rated comfort foods for fall. The basics of this stew are veggies, pasta (or rice), beans, onions, celery, carrots, stock and tomatoes. Today, we want to share a very unique version of minestrone stew from a small Italian region of Istria. This is not something you can readily find in restaurants, and definitely not in a can. Enjoy this rare recipe and share with your loved ones!
Istrian Minestrone or “Minestra de bobici” (bobici meaning corn!)
What you’ll need:
- 2 cups of dried bean mix (look for romano beans) soaked overnight
- half pound of smoked pork ribs or as many as you’d like (ok, not too many!)
- Prosciutto ends, preferably including the bone
- 1 cup of diced carrots
- 1 cup of diced celery
- 1 large chopped onion
- 3 cloves of fresh garlic (no jarred garlic!)
- 1 can of stewed tomatoes (avoid seasoned versions) or 1 very large chopped tomato
- Sweet corn off 1 cob or 1 cup of sweet corn (fresh but flash frozen is ok too)
- 340g or 1 cup of no 5 spaghetti (broken up)
- 2 dried bay leaves
- ¼ cup of olive oil
- ½ tsp of sweet paprika powder
Place your drained beans that you’ve soaked overnight into a stock pot along with your smoked ribs, prosciutto ends, carrots, celery, corn, and bay leaves allowing them to slow simmer for approximately 2 hours (fill waterline until everything is submerged). Make sure you occasionally stir your pot, making sure not to overcook the beans at a temperature that is too high. If you notice they are flaking or falling apart, turn the heat down! Once you approach the 2 hour mark, use a pan to sauté your chopped onion and garlic until they are golden brown but not burnt on any edges. Then put in the stewed or fresh tomato and paprika into you pan with onion and garlic. Stir and add this into the stew pot but first go back and remove all bones from the meat. This is optional, however. You can also serve each bowl with its own bone-in ribs; just make sure to tell everyone at the table! Add the spaghetti in for the final 7 minutes of cooking time. Serve this delicious stew with some grated Grana Padano on top and with plenty of fresh bread on the side. Buon appetito!
Enjoy your fall stews this season and come into Doris Italian Market for all of your cozy comfort food needs!