Stracotto translates literally from the Italian as “overcooked,” but the term has come to refer to beef stews and braises – especially in northern Italy.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, sometimes, finely diced pancetta or the fat from prosciutto and continues with the addition of red wine, beef broth, tomatoes and tomato paste.
There are as many versions of this dish as there are cooks. In much of Tuscany, the meat to be roasted in the pot is seasoned with a minced mixture of celery, carrot, onion and parsley, but never garlic, whereas the cooks of Arezzo use garlic and juniper berries to season the meat.
In Lombardy, the meat is marinated overnight in the red wine. In northern Italy, especially the Parma area, leftover stracotto becomes a filling for ravioli.
In Florence, before the discovery of America and the importation of tomatoes, stracotto was cooked with agresto – a sauce made from crushed, tart grapes, boiled and flavored with cloves, cinnamon and the juice of a squeezed onion. Chianti is the wine of choice in preparing this dish in Florence and porcini mushrooms are often an important ingredient.
In Bologna, a veal roast is used for this dish. In Sicily, the meat is cut into chunks, stew like, before braising.
Italian Jews also make stracotto with wine and tomatoes that is eaten both as a shabbos lunch and as a Friday night dinner. Rome resident, Celeste Pavoncello Pipenro, recalls eating stracotto throughout her life, “I remember Grandmother Celeste cooking stracotto in a special crock pot that she used just for this dish. It was very important to her to cook the stracotto in the crockpot. Also, my father, Marco, cooks the stracotto quite often and he puts some chocolate in with the meat just to add a different flavor.”
The dish originated in the Piedmont area of italy and here is an early recipe translated from Italian to English.
Piedmontese Pot Roast of Beef with Barolo Wine
Ingredients for 6 persons
1 Kg of lean beef, Italian parsley, sage, garlic, onion, carrot, celery, a
little flour, one bottle of Barolo wine, olive oil, butter, nutmeg, salt
You place in a casserole dish some spoonfuls of butter, olive oil
and sliced onions. Saute these ingredients, then brown the meat
after dredging it in the flour. Cover with the parsley, garlic, the
herbs and the rest of the chopped vegetables. Brown the meat on
all sides to seal it, then add the Barolo wine. Simmer a while to
reduce the liquid & evaporate the wine, then add salt and pepper.
Cover and place in a preheated oven(150C/300F/Gas 2). Continue
cooking for approximately three hours in the covered casserole.
Slice the meat and serve the dish with its gravy, straining the gravy if
you prefer smooth gravy.
Barolo wine is traditionally used for this dish in Italy and in Italy it is possible to find inexpensive Barolo wines that are perfect to cook with. Unfortunately, that is not the case in America. Because you don’t want to pour a fifteen or twenty-dollar bottle of wine over a four-dollar piece of meat, I recommend cooking with a flavorful inexpensive red wine and reserving the Barolo to serve with dinner. For tender, flavorful meat, it is best to prepare this dish several hours or, even better, a full day ahead of time. Reheat it in the oven before serving.
Italian Pot Roast (Stracotto)
I also include slow cooker directions for those who prefer that method for this recipe.
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 lb chuck roast
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
8 oz Cremini mushrooms, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups dry red wine
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons sage leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 cup beef stock
1 container crushed tomatoes (26-28 ounces)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Polenta, recipe below, or Spaghetti
Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Salt and pepper the roast, then brown it on both sides.
If using a slow cooker, put the roast in the cooker. If you’re using a Dutch oven, put the roast on a plate.
Sauté the vegetables in the oil that remains until they’re soft and a little browned.
Add the wine to stir up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan and bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes.
Add the herbs, tomato paste, tomatoes and beef stock.
For the Dutch oven put the roast back in the pot and bring the mixture to a simmer and keep at just a simmer for 2 ½ to 3 hours.
If the liquid begins to boil, you may need to place the lid ajar. You don’t want a rapid boil, just a few lazy bubbles or the meat will get tough.
If you’re using a slow cooker, add the vegetables, wine, stock, herbs, tomato paste and tomatoes to the cooker and turn on low for 6-8 hours.
When the meat is tender, remove and cut into thin slices. To thicken the sauce, especially if made in the slow cooker, boil for a few minutes. Remove the bay leaf before serving.
Serve the sliced beef with creamy polenta or spaghetti and a green salad. An Italian red wine, like Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, will be great to use in the recipe and to drink with dinner.
Quick Creamy Polenta
3 cups water or beef broth
1/2 teaspoon salt, if using water
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup quick cooking polenta
Bring the water/broth to a boil. Add salt and butter, then while stirring, slowly pour in the polenta. Stir until there are no lumps, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and cover the pan until ready to serve.
- Italian Pot Roast for When You are Entertaining (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Weekly Cooking Challenge: Stracotto al Chianti (champagnemoods.com)
- Pappardelle con Stracotto (itsnotartitsdinner.wordpress.com)
- Cooking With Italian Red Wine (jovinacooksitalian.com)
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)