Generally, authentic Italian stews have similar ingredients to vegetable soup, but they tend to have larger chunks of meat and vegetables and sometimes have a thicker sauce. Some Italian stews are simply meat simmered in broth or wine. In Italy stew is usually a main dish and is often served in a bowl or on a plate alongside bread, polenta or rice. Some stews are served over polenta.
Stews are generally easy to prepare, store well in the refrigerator and taste better reheated. A perfect make ahead dish. In countries other than Italy, particularly in the United States, some dishes labeled as Italian stew are simply pasta dishes with Italian seaoning that have been converted into stews by reducing the broth or thickening the sauce in the mixture. Usually, this type of stew contains small, hollow noodles like macaroni or shell pasta.
Many Italian stew recipes that are the most popular in Italy did not actually come from there. Since the cuisine of Italy has been influenced by other nearby cultures, some common Italian stews may have originated in border areas, like Hungary and Croatia. The Italian stew called jota, which contains beans and bacon and is often cooked with garlic, potatoes and meat, originally came from Croatia.
In general, Italian stews are cooked using similar, low-heat methods, but they can contain a variety of meats and vegetables. They can be made on the stove, in the oven or in a slow cooker. Vegetables cooked in this type of stew can vary, but usually include carrots, celery and fennel. Potatoes, onion and garlic are also common. The typical Italian stew contains beef, but it can also contain other meats like chicken, pork or veal. Rabbit is a highly popular stew meat in Northern Italy. Sausage is also a common meat, especially in the south.
Italian Pork Stew
My adaption of Marcella Hazan’s recipe.
- 4 cups low sodium beef or chicken broth
- 1 1/2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 pound Cipollini onions, peeled
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 pounds boneless Boston butt pork roast, trimmed of fat and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, divided
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
- 1 1/2 cups (1-inch) slices carrot
- 1 cup potatoes diced
Bring broth and mushrooms to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 20 minutes or until tender. Drain mushrooms in a colander over a bowl, reserving broth.
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté 6 minutes or until lightly browned. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Spoon onion mixture into a large bowl.
Place flour in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Dredge pork in flour, shaking off excess. Heat remaining oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add half of pork mixture; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon oregano, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cook 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Add pork to onion mixture. Repeat procedure with remaining pork mixture, 1/4 teaspoon oregano, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
Add wine to the pan, scraping the pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in reserved broth, pork-onion mixture and sage; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes or until pork is almost tender.
Stir in carrot and potato. Simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and simmer 10 minutes.
Roman Oxtail Stew
In Italy and elsewhere in Europe, the custom of raising beef for meat, as opposed to raising oxen for plowing and transportation, is relatively recent. That’s why, in English, we still refer to the tail of a steer as “oxtails” and not to “beef tails”. There are few true oxen left anywhere in the Western world and modern farming techniques have replaced their work. Most butcher shops and supermarkets in America actually sell the tail cut as “beef oxtails.” Oxtail stew tastes best, if made a day ahead and then reheated. This is a popular stewing cut in Italy and is often served over pasta.
- 1 beef oxtail (2 1/2-3 pounds)
- 6 celery stalks, divided
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1 carrot
- 1 medium-sized white onion
- 4 ounces pancetta
- 2 heaping tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt or coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup Italian dry red wine
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 (28-ounce) cans Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- 6 to 8 cups boiling water
- 5 cloves
- 1 bay leaf
Rinse the oxtail under warm running water and eliminate any fat or gristle with a paring knife. Chop it into sections along the vertebrae. Pat them dry with paper towels.
Mince 1 celery stalk and reserve the rest. Mince the garlic with the carrot and onion. Mince the pancetta; you should have 3/4 cup. Combine the minced vegetables and pancetta with 1 heaping tablespoon of the parsley.
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high. Add the minced vegetable-and-pancetta mixture and sauté, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula until the onion becomes translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the oxtail pieces, a generous pinch of salt and several turns of the peppermill. Brown thoroughly, stirring, for about 15 minutes.
Pour in the wine and boil to evaporate it, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and tomatoes, crushing and stirring. Add just enough of the water to completely submerge the oxtail meat.
Wrap the cloves in cheesecloth and tie it closed with kitchen string, leaving about one foot of the string attached. Lower the purse into the stew and secure the string to a pot handle. Drop in the bay leaf and stir.
Lower the heat to minimum and simmer, partially covered, for 2 hours.
Slice the remaining 5 celery stalks into 2 inch sticks. Add them to the stew and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes.
Remove and discard the cloves and the bay leaf. Stir in the remaining 1 heaping tablespoon of parsley. Serve in soup bowls.
Sausage, Escarole & White Bean Stew
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 12 oz. hot Italian sausage, casings removed
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 2 15-oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 small head escarole, chopped into 1- to 2-inch pieces, washed and lightly dried
- 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
- 1-1/2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
- Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Heat the oil in a heavy 5- to 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the sausage, raise the heat to medium high and cook, stirring and breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon or spatula until lightly browned and broken into small (1-inch) pieces, 5 to 6 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the escarole to the pot in batches; using tongs, toss with the sausage mixture to wilt the escarole and make room for more. When all the escarole is in, add the beans and chicken broth, cover the pot, and cook until the beans are heated through and the escarole is tender, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with the vinegar and salt.
Transfer to bowls and sprinkle each portion with some of the Parmigiano. Serve with toasted Italian country bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil.
Italian Vegetable Stew
- 1 eggplant (about 12 oz), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups vegetable broth or water
- 1 (26-ounce) container POMI chopped tomatoes
- 2 zucchini (8 ounces each), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 red or yellow bell peppers or a combination, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 cup shredded fresh basil
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over high heat until shimmering. Add eggplant, onion and potatoes and sprinkle the vegetables lightly with salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant and potatoes begin to brown, about 2 minutes. Push vegetables to one side of the pot; add 1 tablespoon oil and tomato paste. Cook paste, stirring frequently, until brown, about 2 minutes.
Add the broth and the chopped tomatoes, scraping up any browned bits, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and gently simmer until the eggplant is soft and the potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Add zucchini, bell peppers and ½ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove pot from the heat and cover the pot. Let stand for 20 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper to taste; serve. Add crushed red pepper to taste, if desired.
Tuscan Chicken Stew
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
- 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
- 4 ounces baby spinach leaves
Heat oil in large deep skillet on medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook and stir until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove chicken from skillet. Add onion, garlic and fennel seed; cook and stir on medium heat about 5 minutes or until tender.
Stir in beans, tomatoes, red wine, basil, rosemary, salt, oregano and pepper. Bring to boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 3 minutes. Return chicken to the skillet and cook for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in spinach. Cover and cook 5 minutes longer or until spinach is wilted.
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