Brasato al Barolo is one of the most classic and elegant dishes from the northern Italian region of Piemonte (Piedmont): a hearty cut of beef slow-cooked in red wine until meltingly tender.
It requires a hearty red wine, ideally a Barolo (though you could use other hearty red wines such as Chianti, Brunello, Barbera, or Taurasi), for the right results. Save it for a special occasion, and you'll be quite pleased with the results.
It is generally served over creamy polenta or mashed potatoes, but you could also serve it with buttered egg noodles.
Any leftovers (though you might not have any, it is so tasty), can be used to make a filling for stuffed pasta -- traditionally agnolotti or ravioli in the Piemonte region, but any fresh pasta shape will do:
- 1 large onion (peeled)
- 1 large carrot (peeled)
- 1 stalk of celery
- 3 pounds beef (either rump roast, brisket, chuck, or a similar cut, not too lean or it will be dry)
- 1 bay leaf
- Black peppercorns to taste (whole)
- 1 bottle of Barolo (or a similar full-bodied, tannic red wine)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons prosciutto fat (the fat cut off from slices of prosciutto — or alternatively, just 4 tablespoons butter for the recipe)
- Optional: 1/4 cup cognac
Begin the day before you plan to cook the meat. Chop the onion, celery, and carrot, and put them in a bowl with the meat, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Pour the wine over the mixture and marinate it overnight, turning the meat occasionally.
Remove the meat, reserving the marinade, and pat the meat dry.
Strain the marinade, bring it to a boil, and simmer it over low heat until it's reduced by half.
In the meantime, tie the meat with string so it keeps its shape and brown it in a pot with the butter and prosciutto fat.
Once it's well browned on all sides, sprinkle the cognac, if you're using it, over the meat, and light it.
When the flames have gone out, season the meat with salt, pour the reduced marinade over it, add the vegetables that it marinated with, cover everything, and simmer over a low flame until the meat is done, about 2 hours.
When the meat is done, remove it to a platter and remove the string. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
Skim excess fat from the sauce, pour it over the meat, and serve. (Some people like to remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon, puree them, and return them to the sauce for a smoother sauce -- this is optional). The meat should be so tender, it could be cut with a spoon.
Serve it with mashed potatoes or a creamy polenta. And, of course, a bottle of Barolo.
[Edited by Danette St. Onge]