Giardiniera is a pickled vegetable antipasto that’s all about flavour, texture, and appearance. This version, given to my mother by a neighbour, is different because it is cooked. The traditional version is usually made with raw vegetables, which can be too vinegary. My mother changed up the recipe, putting in different vegetables and reducing the oil and vinegar. My Italian friends are intrigued with the tuna and anchovies that she adds. You’ll need a big pot and a big wooden spoon because you cook this giardiniera – and it has a couple of surprise ingredients. Here’s how my mother does it.
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Chop fresh vegetables, except for pearl onions and button mushrooms, to the same size; keep them separate. Salt all the vegetables and let them drain overnight in a colander. Place a weight on them. My mother makes little packets of the salted vegetables and hangs them, like laundry, from a clothesline in the basement. Bowls collect the water.
Start the base with 2 cups of oil, the pearl onions, anchovies, celery, capers and conserva (tomato paste). A big pot allows moisture to evaporate easily. You don’t want water in this giardiniera.
Add the rest of the vegetables – the firmer the vegetable the longer it needs to cook. Here’s the order: carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, green beans, peppers. Add the following together: store-bought pickled onions, gherkins, olives, mushrooms, peas, a hot pepper. Simmer 5 minutes after each addition. Add tuna at the end. Add salt and vinegar, up to 1 ½ cups according to your taste. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
Keep an eye on the brew and add up to another 2 more cups of oil if needed. You’ll probably need it.
Stir regularly and taste often. The vegetables should be al dente.
It’s a forgiving recipe. When you’ve got it to taste just the way you like it, it’s ready.
Include the liquid.
Place the jars upside down in a pot lined with a dishcloth. Cover the lids with water – right up to the shoulder of the jar. Cover the pot with a lid. Boil for two to three minutes to seal. Remove from pot, let stand upside down and cover with a dishcloth. Let cool.
Store in the refrigerator after opening – if you have any left.
olive oil – 31/2 to 4 cups
pearl onions (and/or two 300ml jars of store-bought pickled onions)
anchovies (about 7 for this recipe)
2 to 3 tablespoons conserva (tomato paste)
peppers – yellow, red, and green
button mushrooms or sliced mushrooms
green and black olives
salt to taste
tuna (4 to 5 cans)
white vinegar – 1 to 2 cups, to taste
– Elizabeth Cinello
Photos by Elizabeth Cinello
This article is part of our issue FEEDING TORONTO.