“Spezzatino con patate” is a beef stew, very common in Italy, especially in the north of the country. No one knows the origins of this dish. The spezzatino has some similarities, both with the Hungarian goulash and the French beef bourguignon; France, Italy and Hungary have all been interconnected for various reasons in the past (19th century), because of Napoleon invading the East or because of the ambitions of the Austro-Hungarian empire who wanted to stretch towards the West. Northern Italy found itself invaded, and in the middle of these wars, and maybe it is here where we all shared something about this dish. In Italy, we use veal because it is the most tender meat and for this reason the dish does not require a long cooking time (between 45 and 60 minutes). If you use tough beef cuts, like beef shoulder for example, it could mean that you may need to cook the meat for some extra time (between 60 and 90 minutes).
- 7500 g (1.5 lb) Cubed beef (shoulder)
- 400 g (1 lb) Potatoes (medium size)
- 1 onion (finely chopped)
- 150 g (5 oz) Baby carrots (leave them whole)
- 25 g – 40 g (1 oz – 1 ½ oz) Tomato purée (see the note below)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 Beef stock cube
- Olive oil for the initial sauté
- Kosher Salt and black pepper for seasoning
- Some white flour for coating the meat
If you want the finished stew to be noticeably red, use 40 g (1 ½ oz) of tomato purée, otherwise, for a more pinkish finish, add just 25 g (1 oz).
- Remove the eye from the baby carrots with a knife. Then, if you don’t peel them, give them a good wash, scrub, rinse.
- Coat the meat cubes with flour.
- Take a frying pan, add little oil and sear the meat cubes on a high heat. Remember to shake the cubes before adding them into the pan, so that you get rid of the flour in excess.
- If you have lots of meat cubes to sear, it is preferable to do it in batches. Once the meat has achieved a nice brown colour on one side, it is time to turn the piece of meat. Try to sear all the sides of the piece of meat.
- The searing of the meat should take only few minutes. Use a tray to temporary accommodate the meat pieces once browned (they will stay on the tray only for few minutes).
- While searing the meat, make stock dissolving the stock cube in 500 ml of boiling water.
- Take a large pan, put a splash of olive oil and sauté the onion on a medium heat.
- After the onions, add the baby carrots.
- Give it a good stir and sauté for a couple of minutes or so, without letting the onion to get too much colour.
- When the onions are lightly coloured, add the meat into the pan.
- Give it a gentle stir.
- Add about 400 ml of the hot stock into the pan and reserve the remaining 100 ml for later (in case the pan content gets too dry).
- Now add the tomato purée and gently stir.
- Add the bay leaves.
- Bring the heat to low and cover with a lid. Simmer for about 60 minutes and during this stage, if the meat looks too dry, feel free to add the remaining 100 ml of stock left.
- Next, wash-peel-wash and quarter the potatoes. Put them into a pan with lightly salted cold water.
- Put the pan onto a medium heat and when the water starts boiling, boil for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes boiling, drain the potatoes and set aside.
- Now, it is time to add the potatoes. Give a gentle stir, so that the potatoes are well mixed into the stew.
- Now, add the potatoes into the pan. Give a gentle stir, so that the potatoes are well mixed into the stew.
- 15 minutes before the end, remove the lid and if there is still too much liquid into the pan, then finish the cooking without lid. However, once you add the potatoes, these will usually have a thickening effect.
- At the same time, just about 15 minutes before the end, taste and correct the seasoning of your liking, by adding some salt.
- Now in the last season with black pepper.
- In Italy, spezzatino is served with polenta and a nice glass of red bodied wine is a must.