Italian Vegetarian Stew with Ricotta

Today was the kind of day in New England where you hunker down and don’t go anywhere if you don’t have to leave your home.  I decided to make this stew because it’s hearty and delicious and full of vitamin rich veggies that can keep my immune system in high gear.  The whole milk ricotta adds a decadent richness and depth to it that really doesn’t add too many calories because of – portion control!

Here’s the view that led me to want to make this stew:

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This stew is really versatile and easy to make, and if you don’t have some of the veggies that I use you can substitute what you have in your own crisper.  For example I used parsnips which I love because they have a nutty, earthy flavor especially if they are a little charred.  If you don’t have them or like them you could add extra carrots or onions, or even fennel.  I used some fresh English shelled peas I had on hand, but frozen peas work just as well.  You get the idea!

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Above are the veggies all prepped and ready to go into a hot pan.  From the top are parsnips, carrots, red and yellow peppers, baby zucchini, sweet onion, to the right baby bella mushrooms and to the left chopped Italian parsley and fresh thyme.

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Here are the veggies after they’ve sautéed in the olive oil for a few minutes and I have added dried rosemary, basil and fresh garlic to toss around and roast for a couple of minutes.

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I added a good quality canned tomatoes (whole ones I squished into the pot with my fingers – very satisfying!) peas and fresh thyme.  You will cover this and let it simmer at low heat for about 20-30  minutes until the flavors marry together.  Then you can remove the thyme stems and add about 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and let it simmer for a few more minutes.  You will want to taste for salt and pepper at this point and add if needed.

Here’s what the finished stew looks like:

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I like to put some fresh greens in the bottom of my bowl and then ladle the stew on top and let it sit for a minute.  Then stir it in and the greens wilt into the soup/stew.  Top with freshly grated Parmesan, then a nice scoop of a good quality whole milk ricotta, a bit more of fresh Italian parsley and a drizzle of good quality olive oil.  I used California Olive Ranch this time and I loved the fruity fresh flavor.

Recipe (approximately 4 healthy servings)

2 cups of chopped fresh veggies:

my mix was parsnips, carrots, yellow and red peppers, baby bella mushrooms, zucchini, sweet onion, fresh english peas, and minced garlic

1 28 ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes (any good quality whole tomatoes are fine)

1/2 cup of white wine

1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup of water (or vegetable stock)

chopped fresh Italian parsley

4-6 stems of fresh Thyme

Sea salt and pepper to taste

dried Rosemary and Basil

freshly grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

Good quality Ricotta ( I used whole milk because it was a small amount and the texture is phenomenal compared to nonfat)

Method:

Saute the veggies in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until browned and softened.  Toss in the garlic and  dried herbs and stir around to toast.  Pour in white wine and balsamic vinegar and let simmer for a couple of minutes, and then add the tomatoes, water, thyme and peas.  Bring back to a simmer and cover, leaving the top off center a little so that steam can escape.  Let the stew simmer for about 20-30 minutes.  You can make it a soup at this point as well by adding extra liquids such as vegetable stock, more white wine, or water or some kind of combination.  After the simmer add about 1/4 cup of Parmesan and then taste for salt and pepper, adding if needed.

Place a handful of your favorite greens into a bowl and ladle the stew on top.  After a minute stir and add more Parmesan.  Top with Ricotta, chopped parsley and a drizzle of good olive oil.  Mangia!!!  You will love the hearty, rich taste of the stew contrasted with the velvety coolness of the ricotta, the fruity oil and the grassy bite of parsley.

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