Spezzatino con patate e piselli is a hallmark of Italian cucina casalinga: a comforting stew of veal, peas and potatoes, beloved by kids and adults alike. When I saw bags of fresh British peas still on sale (it is now the end of August), I thought I would like to try a vegan version of the dish: the same ingredients, minus the veal. I also added some frozen broad beans I had in the freezer (which needs clearing out). The result was very good (and the next day it was even better). Reading the recipe you will understand that quantities are really flexible.
1 celery ribs, stringed and diced into small, regular pieces
1 carrot, diced into small, regular pieces
1 onion, finely chopped
1 fresh bay leaf and few sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons tomato purè
100 ml extra dry white vermouth
500 small waxy potatoes, rinsed and halved
1 teaspoon of sugar
300 g fresh peas
300 g frozen broad beans, defrosted by pouring boiling water over them, skinned if you wish
Film the bottom of large casserole with oil and add the chopped vegetables and the herbs. Salt, cover and cook, on a low heat, until the vegetables are soft, stirring from time to time. If the soffritto looks as if it is going to dry, add a splash of hot water.
Raise the heat and add the tomato purè. Cook it for few seconds. Add the potatoes and stir them around to coat them in the flavoured soffritto.
When they start to stick to the pot, add the wine and let it boil away almost entirely. Barely cover with hot vegetable stock.
Simmer until the potatoes begin to soften. Add the peas and the sugar. Simmer until the vegetables are done, with the lid askew. Add the broad beans and let it simmer for few minutes extra.
By the end the sauce will have reduced greatly and it will be fairly thick, if this is not the case, dissolve a couple of teaspoons of cornstarch in few tablespoons of sauce, stir well and pour it back into the pot, simmer until thick-is.
Let the vegetable stew rest for at least ten minutes, covered, then drizzle with extra oil and serve.
I have also made this dish successfully with frozen peas, adding them alongside the broad beans (they too can be defrosted by pouring hot water over them).