Paleo Italian Vegetable Stew
Why This Recipe Works
Known as ciambotta in Italy, this stew makes for a hearty one-bowl meal. To make a paleo version, we’d have to find a substitute for the canned tomatoes that are usually the backbone of the stew, as well as a replacement for the commonly added russet potatoes. We found that a combination of fresh tomatoes and tomato paste created the flavorful base we were after. Browning the tomato paste intensified its flavor. Chopped plum tomatoes, simmered in plenty of water, broke down into a tomatoey broth. We cooked the tomatoes for at least 40 minutes to ensure they didn’t have a raw flavor. Although this stew was flavorful, it was too thin. Since eggplant has a natural tendency to fall apart with long cooking, we let it simmer with the tomatoes to create a heartier, more substantial broth. Microwaving the eggplant before adding it to the pot ensured that it didn’t leach excess moisture into the stew. Mellow-flavored celery root made a perfect stand-in for russet potatoes. To keep the zucchini and bell peppers crisp-tender and not mushy, we browned them and set them aside, adding them back only at the end of the cooking time. A quick basil-oregano pesto provided freshness and balance to our savory stew.