Suggested Dinner Menu For Entertaining:
Appetizer: Marinated Roasted Red Peppers, Artichoke Hearts, Olives, Celery Sticks, Fresh Mozzarella Slices and Bread Sticks.
Entree: Italian Pot Roast; Spaghetti and Green Salad.
Dessert: Sicilian Ricotta Cheesecake.
How To Make Pot Roast:
I developed this recipe for family get-togethers and special occasions many years ago. Gradually, through the years, I worked on the ingredients until they came together the way I wanted this recipe to taste. This dish became a family favorite and was requested for birthdays, christenings, and parties. Pot roast is an excellent choice for a company dinner because it can be made several days ahead of time. The roast actually tastes better a day or two later and preparing the main dish ahead of time, gives the host time to prepare other menu items.
The Italian name for this dish is Stracotto, a recipe common in most regions of Northern and Central Italy. “Stracotto” means overcooked in Italian. The important part of the recipe is the slow cooking of the meat at a very low temperature to tenderize even the toughest cut of beef. The recipe starts with a soffritto of onion, carrot, celery, and pancetta, finely diced, and continues with the addition of red wine and sometimes fresh tomato or tomato paste. Pancetta, Italian bacon, can be substituted with un-smoked bacon, but most delis carry pancetta now.
In order to keep this recipe healthy, it is important to choose the right cut of beef – one that is lean and benefits from long, slow cooking. Many pot roast recipes call for a chuck roast but this is a very fatty piece of meat. Chuck cut can be used if the fat can be removed from the sauce after the meat is chilled. For the Italian pot roast, the sauce contains a vegetable base and removing the fat would be difficult. This sauce is served with the meat and over a side course of pasta. As you can see in the photo below, the chuck roast contains a lot of fat.
I have found that any one of the following roasts are perfect for this recipe because they are a solid, lean piece of meat, that does not break up or shred during the long cooking process.
Italian Pot Roast
- 4 pound rump, eye of the round or top round beef roast
- 1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Flour for coating meat
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 ounce pancetta, diced
- 1 large carrot, diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 large celery stalk, diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 medium onion, diced (1 cup)
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 cups medium-bodied Italian red wine
- 2 cups low sodium beef broth
- 1 28-32 ounce container Italian plum tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 lb. spaghetti
Trim most of the fat from the meat. Pat dry with paper towels. Season generously with the salt and pepper and lightly rub with all- purpose flour. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the roast and brown on all sides, 10-12 minutes. Transfer the meat to a platter.
Reduce the heat to medium and heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the pancetta, carrot, celery, and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, 10-12 minutes. Add the garlic, parsley, tomato paste and rosemary and stir about 1 minute.
Add the wine and stir to incorporate the vegetables. Add the beef stock, the tomatoes, the bay leaf and the roast with any juices accumulated on the plate. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat, and simmer on very low, turning and basting the meat every half hour or so, until the meat is very tender, about 4 hours. (You can also put the pot into a 300°F oven and turn the roast every hour.)
Boil the water for the spaghetti.
Remove the meat from the pot and place it on a cutting board, covered loosely with aluminum foil to rest for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust sauce seasoning, remove bay leaf and keep the sauce hot.
Cook the spaghetti.
Cut the meat into thick slices and place in a deep serving dish. Spoon some of the sauce over the meat and reserve the rest to add to the cooked pasta.
You can certainly serve this roast with mashed potatoes or polenta, but my family likes spaghetti with this dinner.
Sicilian Ricotta Cheesecake
- Butter for the pan
- 2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained overnight in the refrigerator
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for the pan
- 6 eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 teaspoons Amaretto liqueur or rum
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Set rack in the middle of the oven. Butter and flour a 9 1/2 inch springform pan, and tap out excess flour.
- Place the ricotta in a large mixing bowl, and stir it as smooth as possible with a rubber spatula. Stir the sugar and flour together and thoroughly mix into the ricotta. Stir in the eggs 1 at a time. Blend in the vanilla, cinnamon, orange and lemon zest, Amaretto and salt. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake in the center of the oven for about 1 1/2 hours to 1 3/4 hours, until a light golden color. Make sure the center is fairly firm, and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. It will sink slightly as it cools. Cover, and chill overnight in the refrigerator. Remove from pan before serving.
- Pot Roast craving means fall (goerie.com)
- Pass the Pot Roast: Your Sunday Supper Meal Plan (artofmanliness.com)
Meatballs and sausage are just about the most favorite accompaniment to spaghetti or other pasta for most folks. As I was growing up, I think meatballs were my very favorite. I did not have an appreciation for sausage until later in life. As I recall, pork sausage could be chewy and contain large pieces of fat. Not the healthiest of foods. Today there are numerous types of sausages besides pork, such as turkey, chicken and vegetarian. However, if you want an authentic taste then Italian pork sausages are the way to go.
About 10 years ago I discovered Fortuna ‘s Sausage Company located in Rhode Island and was very pleased with their product. The sausage is made with all natural , hand trimmed pork and comes from small farms across the region. The sausage comes in a number of flavors and is not fatty. I have included a link below, if you would like to see the products they sell.
When it comes to cooking meatballs or sausage, my method is different from my mother’s. She would mix the meatball ingredients, form the meatballs and fry them in oil before adding them to the tomato sauce. In fact some of my relatives prepared the meat in the same pan that they later cooked the tomato sauce in, leaving all the fat that came from the meat in the pan and then into the sauce. Even frying the meat in a skillet, as my mother did, added fat to this dish. So to avoid this added fat, I bake the meatballs and sausage in a hot oven and then add them to the sauce. I like to think that my method is much healthier.
My usual preparation is to spray two 9″ x 13″ glass baking dishes with olive oil cooking spray. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In one dish I place 1 lb. of Italian sausage cut into 3 inch links. The second dish will hold the meatballs and the recipe is as follows:
- 2 lbs. lean ground meat (beef and pork) or you can use all beef
- 1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups of Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- 1 cup warm water
In a large mixing bowl place the bread crumbs and warm water. Mix and let rest for about 10 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients except the meat and mix well.
Add the meat and mix with your hands just until combined. Over mixing causes the meat to toughen.
Wet your hands and form the meatballs. A traditional size is 2-3 inches across, but you can make them any size you want. I usually get about 16 meatballs. Place them in a greased baking dish.
Bake the sausage and the meatballs until brown, about 40 minutes, turning them half way through the baking time. Remove the meat to a tray lined with paper towels to drain.
Add the meat to the tomato sauce during the second hour and let them simmer in the sauce for an hour. The recipe for the sauce was in yesterday’s post. Just click on the link.
Meatballs and sausage to serve with cooked spaghetti.