Vegetable Casserole     

Misto di Ortaggi Stufati - Canazzu 

Canazzu is a spring and summer vegetable dish, very popular for the easiness of the preparation and availability of ingredients. The main ingredients are eggplants, potatoes, peppers, onions, peeled tomatoes, olive oil and parsley. After all ingredients are washed and prepped, place in a pan and sauté to coat, cooking for a few minutes. Then season with salt and black peppers and continue cooking covered for a total of 30 minutes. It is a vegetarian’s delight! 

 

The words “canazzu” or “canazzo” literally mean “big and ugly dog”—because, most likely, as they move about, these large dogs would collide and knock down furniture and anything in their way; the big mess created would have given them the nickname canazzo, which was thereafter categorized with the word “chaotic,” in Sicilian ”a comu egghe.” 

 

The canazzu is an unruly mixture of various vegetables, whatever happens to be available at imprecise quantities. Eggplants are the only necessary ingredients.  

 

The following recipe shows the classic proportion and the traditional ingredients, but feel free to modify it and to follow your preferences. 

 

 

Canazzu

 

We also will present a variation of this recipe, as cooked at Joe’s of Avenue “U”, our family’s Sicilian Food Specialties restaurant. It utilizes the same ingredients but uses a process which is more suitable to serving a large gathering; it allows you to do all the preparations in advance. 

 

Serve canazzo as a side dish with fish or meat, or as a main dish along with a salad and fresh Italian bread, to make a complete dinner. 

 

Serves 4 

INGREDIENTS  

· 6 tablespoons olive oil 

· 2 medium size onions, cut into ½-inch strips 

· 1 cup peeled tomatoes or 4 fresh tomatoes, peeled and diced 

· 2 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch elongated olive shapes 

· 3 sweet peppers, various colors; washed, pitted and cut into 1 ½-inch chunks 

· 2 eggplants, washed and cut into 1 ½-inch chunks with skin on 

· Salt and black pepper 

· Parsley to garnish 

PREPARATION  

 

Warm up the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add each vegetable individually, sautéing for 5 minutes and stirring occasionally before adding the next (in the following order): onions, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers.

  

                                   onions TomatoesPotatoesPeppers

 

Finally, stir in the eggplants, add salt and black pepper and turn gently to blend all the ingredients. 

 

Eggplants

 

 

Cover the canazzo tightly and simmer it until the potatoes are done, 20 to 25 minutes. 

Place in a serving dish, garnish with parsley and serve lukewarm or at room temperature. 

 

VARIATION  

At Joe’s, the Focacceria Palermitana on Avenue “U”, we prepared this dish using the same ingredients. However, we sautéed the various vegetables separately, assembled the canazzo in layers and baked for a few minutes when ready to serve it. For this preparation, extra oil is needed. 

 

The potatoes should be blanched in salted boiling water for 3 minutes, transferred into cold water to stop the cooking process and set on the side in a colander to drain. 

 

 

Blanching the Potatoes

 

 

The Sauce 

In a sauté pan, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and, after 5 minutes, add the tomatoes and ½ cup of water. Sprinkle some salt and black pepper to taste. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally; set on the side. 

 

Dicing the OnionsDiced Tomatoes

 

The Vegetables 

 

The Peppers 

In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat; add the peppers and sauté for 5 minutes. Lightly sprinkle with salt and continue cooking until the peppers are slightly tender but al dente. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peppers to a baking tray lined with paper towels, lightly sprinkle with salt, and set on the side. 

 

Use the leftover oil to sauté the potatoes. 

 

Diced Peppers

 

The Potatoes 

Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil to the leftover oil and warm it over medium heat; add half of the potatoes and sauté, turning them a few times, until they are lightly browned on all sides. Do not overcook! Use a slotted spoon to transfer the potatoes to a baking tray lined with paper towels, lightly sprinkle with salt, and set on the side. Proceed to fry the other half of the potatoes. 

 

Diced Eggplants

 

The Eggplants 

Use the leftover oil, addding more if needed, and sauté half of the eggplants in the same pan. Fry the eggplants until they are lightly browned around the edges. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a baking tray lined with paper towels. 

Proceed to fry the other half of the eggplants.

  

The Assembly 

In a baking dish, arrange in layers interspersed with the sauce. Start with a few spoons of sauce, then layer ½ the potatoes, more sauce; ½ the peppers, sauce and ½ of the eggplants. Repeat until all ingredients are used up. 

 

Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are done. If the canazzo was stored in the refrigerator, bring it to room temperature before baking. 

 

Serve lukewarm or at room temperature, garnished with parsley.