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In the Style of Toscana

Stufato di verdure alla Toscana

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Stufato di verdure is a northern Italian vegetable stew common to Tuscany. This version was served with a poached farm egg and garlic-rubbed sourdough toast. The word stufata is a cooking technique similar to a braise, in which the ingredients are cooked in little or no water. The juices from the vegetables themselves form the stew’s gravy. Stufato should be served immediately lest the vegetables absorb what little liquid there is. Then it becomes more like ciambotta, a southern Italian dish that’s related to both ratatouille and caponata.

Stufato is a year-round dish that’s limited only by your imagination and availability of ingredients at your local market. In autumn, it can feature pumpkin, squash, tomatoes, cranberry beans, cauliflower and peppers. In the winter, it might contain black cabbage, potatoes, carrots, chard and kale. In the spring, fava beans, baby artichokes, baby leeks, young peas, green garlic and turnips.

You can make stufato several hours ahead and reheat, or serve it at room temperature. This goes well with a crisp white wine such as a pinot gris or Tokay d’Alsace.

Olive oil
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
5 fresh sage leaves
3 tightly packed teaspoons basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and halved
2 stalks celery with leaves, coarsely chopped
4 small (1 pound) zucchini, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large (1/2 pound) yellow or orange sweet pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch dice
6 oil-cured black olives, pitted and minced — if you don’t have access to these, Ligurian or Gaeta olives will do in a pinch
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
4 medium (about 1 pound) ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped (not seeded), or 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes, completely drained
kosher salt
freshly milled black pepper

Pour 4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil into a large sauté pan or Dutch oven. Set over high heat. Sauté the onion until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Add the zucchini, celery and beans. Lower the heat to medium, and sauté until the zucchini is golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the herbs, olives, sweet pepper, garlic and tomatoes. If using canned tomatoes, crush them with your hands as you go. Check seasoning. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook 25 to 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and their texture becomes silken. Adjust the heat to keep the vegetables from scorching. Add a little water if necessary.

If the stufato seems too liquid, uncover and cook over medium-high heat for a few minutes to reduce. Check seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature. Drizzle a little extra-virgin olive oil, chopped fresh herbs or grated Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese atop each serving, or serve over poached eggs and toasted bread.

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