Italian ‘Spezzatino’ is similar to what you would know as a beef stew and is very popular throughout Italy from North to South. It used to be the centre-piece of most Sunday meals from the 19th century onwards. Because the main ingredient was the not-so-tender parts of the animal, it was affordable for most people. In the old days beef was only one of the meats used; horse and donkey meat were also the basis of many a stew. People were poor and they had to survive on what was available. Today horses and donkeys are much safer! The main meat for Spezzatino is beef, sometimes veal. As I said, you can find it almost everywhere in Italy, although each region, or area, has its own recipe. I have chosen a basic version, which is easy to make and super-tasty.
- 1 kg diced beef
- 2 carrots
- 1 onion
- 100 g plain flour
- 1 litre stock
- 1 large glass of red wine
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
First of all dust the meat with flour and peel and cut the vegetables into a fine dice.
Make a ‘soffritto’ by pouring a generous amount of oil into a pan and add the vegetables. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are softened and golden but not burnt or crispy.
Now add the beef cubes to the “soffritto” and turn them with a wooden spoon so they are nicely coated with the vegetables and flavoured oil. Season well with salt and pepper. Raise the heat a bit and let the beef brown very lightly, turning constantly to avoid burning. Then add a glass of red wine and let it evaporate. Now add enough broth to almost cover the meat. Cover, turn down the flame and let the beef simmer very gently until fork-tender. Most recipes say an hour and a half, but I think that two to three hours is perfect cooking time.
‘Braised meat, especially in this dish, where there aren’t particular spices and herbs, is usually eaten with the same wine used for cooking. This will enforce the meat taste. If this is not possible, or it’s too expensive, the wine that offers the perfect taste combination is BAROLO from Piemonte. It is a well-known red wine, easy to find, with variable prices based on quality and age. It is warm and characterized by an intense and persistent flavour, fairly tannic.‘
‘Il vino prepara i cuori e li rende più pronti alla passione’
Wine prepares the heart for passion!