(Apologies in advance, bit of a long one this one. Basically it’s just 1 big recipe and a couple of little ones with it, so here it goes…)
Whenever I think about Italian red wines, I guess I just head straight for my comfort zone. That means thick, tomato-based stews, and ragu. I’m slowly getting better at them (I think). So I’ll give you a quick recipe for one of those. My good mate Paolo (a Piemontese native) though kind of looked at me a bit funny when I told him. He’s given me something else that the foodies out there amoungst you might want to have a go at.
Suggestion Number 1: The Stew
So we’ll start with the meat. Get a red meat, but you’ll need something with a bit of bone in it. Something like osso bucco, beef shin, or oxtail should do the trick nicely. Then you need the holy trinity of carrots, celery, and onions. For the tomatoes you can use jars of passata or just as good are the tins of chopped tomatoes, which I’m going to use.
Finally it’s one or two ingredients to make it your own. I usually go with garlic, fresh tomatoes, a bit of chilli, and then whatever herb I fancy at the time. Usually you’re looking at basil or oregano, but I decided to have a go with parsley this time (no idea why, thought I’d just test it out). Oh, and a good glug of red wine helps a lot (one for you, one for the pot).
Stick some butter in the bottom of the pan, then brown off the meat, and then remove from the pan, leaving the meat-flavoured butter at the bottom. Now turn the heat down and add the onions to soften them up. Once softened add the celery and carrot, just getting them nicely heated through. It’s now I usually add the garlic and chilli for a bit, before adding in the tinned and fresh tomatoes, the glug of wine, and the herbs.
Once all that’s starting to simmer and mix nicely, add the meat back in, and top the mix up with water to make sure it’s all covered. This is just for the cooking bit, you’ll reduce the sauce at the end. Put it on the lowest heat possible to keep it simmering, stick the lid on, and then leave it going for 2-3 hours, popping back now and again to give it a stir.
It’s basically done when the meat is falling off the bone, and the marrow in the bones has melted into the sauce. Especially if you’re using osso bucco or beef shin, you should just be removing hollowed out rings of bone at the end. Shred the meat in the stew, continue to simmer without the lid to reduce down to the consistency you like, and then finish off the seasoning with some salt and pepper, and maybe another touch of butter to gloss it at the end.
Serve that with pasta or bread or on it’s own. And make sure you give yourself a well-earned bottle of Barbera (ones from Alba are better with this) to have it with.
Suggestion Number 2: Bagna Cauda
This is a Piemontese classic. Try it with the Barbera d’Asti. It’s effectively a warm dipping sauce that you use to dip roasted vegetables, potatoes, bread, and (if you’re really going to push the boat out) thinly sliced raw beef. It’s based around one of the more important ingredients in the area. Anchovies.
Piemonte has quite a few dishes based around anchovies and tuna. The old salt road up into Europe used to cut its way through there, and fish coming up from the Mediterranean was stored in the salt wagons. Hence they used to get a lot of tuna and anchovies.
For Paolo’s Bagna Cauda (cut and pasted from an email from the man himself):
“It evolved quite a lot in recent years, so I’ve attached both the “traditional ” and “modern” recipes. FYI, I only do the modern one or otherwise I’ll fall into a month long food coma:
Traditional (for 4 people)
12 cloves of garlic
500 ml extra virgin olive oil
200 g butter
Slice the garlic and leave for a couple of hours immersed in cold water. Two tbsp of oil and 50 g of butter gently cook the garlic for 30 minutes with very low heat. Add all the remaining ingredients and serve as soon as the anchovies liquefy. Pour into a fondue dish over a flame. Serve with the vegetable crudités for dipping.
Modern (4 people)
6 cloves of garlic (soaked in milk overnight)
50 ml extra virgin olive oil
250 ml double cream
Olive oil into the pan, gently cook the garlic for 30 minutes with very low heat. Add all the remaining ingredients and serve as soon as the anchovies liquefy. Pour into a fondue dish over a flame. Serve with the vegetable crudités for dipping.”
Paolo, you’re a star pal!
Other posts in NWTW Week 4: