Years ago I met a lovely woman named Sianna. An older woman, a wise woman and a woman whose every word I seemed to tuck away in the file drawers of my mind. She was fascinating. Full of adventurous life stories and snippets of wisdom that I’m sure she felt my ears needed to hear.
Sianna, originally from Tuscany, sent me the most wonderful book; The Tuscan Year by Elizabeth Romer. Written many years ago by the English Author who spent a year with a Tuscan family. Elizabeth Romer documents each seasons harvest and the foods prepared in the region as well as the everyday life of the small Tuscan village. If you love books about culture and food, this is a fun, and might I say delicious read.
One of the recipes, a Stracotto, is a beef stew made with wine and herbs. It’s braised until the meat falls apart and is almost overcooked, which is what “stracotto” means, overcooked. But this is no dried out tasteless beef stew! This Stracotto couldn’t be more decadent or simple. It’s a rich, herby and full flavored Italian beef stew that is a perfect meal for a cold winter or spring night.
Now in typical Karista’s Kitchen fashion, I’ve adapted this recipe to be easily recreated in American home kitchens. It still needs to cook for quite a good length of time, but works well in a slow cooker or Dutch oven. The Stracotto creates the most mouth watering scents in my house and anyone who walks in my front door can’t wait to eat!
Enjoy this delicious taste of Tuscany! Bon Appetito!
Beef Stracotto with Creamy Parmesan Polenta
4 lbs Beef top rump or top side roast
5 – 6 slices Pancetta (or 4 slices bacon), chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, thin sliced
2 cups dry red wine (This dish taste best with DaVinci Chianti wine) Note: if using a slow cooker reduce wine to 1 cup.
1 18 oz. jar Organic whole tomatoes (I use Jovial Whole Tomatoes) crush them just a bit with your hands.
1 teaspoon dried Rosemary, crushed (or 1 stalk fresh Rosemary)
½ teaspoon dried Oregano
½ teaspoon dried Thyme (or 1 stalk fresh Thyme)
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian Parsley
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
Season the roast with salt and pepper on all sides and preheat the oven to 350F.
In an oven proof Dutch oven or heavy stock pot on medium high heat brown the roast on all sides. Transfer the browned roast to a plate and set aside.
Turn the heat to medium and add the chopped pancetta. Brown the pancetta until crisp and then add the onion, celery and carrots. Cook the veggies until soft and translucent, and then add the garlic. Cook for another few minutes.
Sprinkle the veggies with the teaspoon of pepper and then add the wine, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Let the wine simmer for a minute or two and stir in the tomatoes.
Add the dried herbs and chopped fresh Italian parsley and combine with the veggie mixture. Let the mixture come to a slow boil and then place the beef back into the pot.
Turn off the stove top, put the lid on the pot and place the pot in the preheated oven. Cook for about 4-5 hours in the oven until the beef falls apart. Check for seasoning, adding the teaspoon salt if needed.
Serve the Stracotto over a Creamy Parmesan Polenta and serve immediately.
Creamy Parmesan Polenta
½ cup quick cook polenta (I like Moretti brand) Or prepare according to package directions.
3 cups whole or 2% milk
2 tablespoons fresh grated parmesan
Season with salt and pepper to taste
In a medium stock pot heat the milk on medium. Stir every once and a while so the milk won’t burn on the bottom. When the milk comes to a slow boil, add the polenta and stir.
Continue stirring the polenta until it thickens to a heavy creamy texture. Take it off the heat and add the parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with the Stracotto or any beef or pork stew or use in place of pasta with a delicious ragu.