braised beef

Brasato in red wine part II

Remember my musings on loss and sadness last week and how I assuaged them by braising meat? First of all, sorry about the whining.  I swear I am fine and thank you so for letting me exorcise demons on the page. I was touched by how many reached out to me. Once again, food, family, friend proved to be my all-healing holy trinity. The brasato was every bite as soothing as needed for my passing blues. Its powers, heightened by sharing its consumption, kept on gifting in different guises as I re-purposed it into a pasta sauce first and then into meatballs.

Those who come to my classes know that one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is re-purpose leftovers. I have actually taught 2 series of classes at 18 Reasons on the subject.

Until another leftover class makes it on the docket, I am sharing the two dishes that gave my brasato a second and a third life.

Rigatoni al sugo di brasato Rigatoni with braised beef sauceRigatoni al brasato

for 4 to 6 people 1 small yellow onion 1/2 tablespoon lard or olive oil 1 teaspoon grated orange zest 6 slices brasato 1/2 cup dry marsala (or sherry or madera) 1/2 cup pureed vegetable sauce from brasato 1 pound box of rigatoni (or other short ribbed pasta of your choice) grated pecorino (optional)

Slice the onion thinly and soften it in the lard heated in a skillet, with the zest and a generous pinch of salt. Continue cooking over medium low heat until the onion starts turning beige, adding a bit of water if necessary.

In the meantime dice the brasato slices quite small and add to the colored onions. Turn up the heat and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Deglaze with the marsala.

When the smell of the wine has gone from pungent to sweet, add the pureed sauce and simmer everything for about 10 minutes to reduce and thicken.

In the meantime, cook the pasta in a generous pot of salted boiling water until very al dente. Strain it with a colander and transfer it into the skillet. Finish cooking it in the brasato sauce adding 2 to 3 spoonfuls of cooking water and a splash of olive oil for sheen.

Serve hot with the grated pecorino on the side.


Polpette di brasato Brasato meatballs

no spaghetti here, just great meatballs

for 6 to 8 people 2 slices day old bread milk for soaking the bread 1/2 pound leftover brasato 2 slices prosciutto 1/4 pound ground veal 1/4 pound ground pork 1 small handful parsley leaves 1 egg + 1 yolk 1 tablespoons grated parmigiano grated zest of half lemon nutmeg to taste salt and pepper to taste 1/2 yellow onion 1 carrot 1 celery stalk 2 tablespoons lard or olive oil splash white wine 2 tablespoons tomato concentrate

Soak the bread in milk until soft. Squeeze it lightly and place it in a food processor bowl. Add the brasato and prosciutto slices. Process until ground finely but not into a paste. Transfer to a bowl.

Pick and mince the parsley.

Add the ground meats, egg, yolk, parmigiano, parsley and zest. Season to taste with nutmeg salt and pepper. Mix all ingredients together well with your hands.

Wet your palms and roll round meatballs of about 2" in diameter. Set aside on a plate.

Slice the onions, carrot and celery thinly.

Heat half the lard in a sauté pan and brown the meatballs in it, in batches if necessary to keep them from overcrowding the pan. Transfer to a platter.

Add the rest of the lard to the sauté pan and soften the sliced vegetables in it for about 10 minutes over medium heat and with a generous pinch of salt.

Place the browned meatballs back in the pan and turn up the heat.

After approximately 2 minutes, deglaze with the wine. When the smell of the wine has gone from pungent to sweet, add the tomato concentrate and about 1 cup of hot water. Bring to a simmer and turn the heat down to medium low.

Cover the meatballs and braise them slowly for 20 to 25 minutes, adding small amounts of water if necessary. Keep in mind that the liquid should come to no more than 1/3 of the way up the meatballs.

The sauce will darken and thicken while the meatballs cook.

Transfer to a platter and douse with the cooking sauce. Serve hot with a salad and some crusty bread.


Loss and comfort: brasato in red wine

It's been such a couple of weeks, marred by losses of various entity, none earth-shattering standing alone, but all rather unsettling in compound. Some were luxury losses, like finally watching the last episode of Breaking Bad or realizing San Francisco's brief summer is surrendering to winter. Some were collective, like the passing of Marcella Hazan and that of Lou Reed. But others were more personally touching: a close girlfriend losing her mother, the realization that my child's attention to me is waning, my aging, beloved aunt undergoing surgery, a friendship lost along the way.

There is just no ignoring that I have been feeling sad. Laurie Anderson's piece on her life with Lou Reed on Rolling Stone magazine gave me pause to reflect about how we feel and are in the face of sadness.

Losses and endings are change, part of life really, which is often less than perfect but always right in the end. I feel sad but am still happy. I like to feel sad, because accepting the occasional sadness serves to crystallize happiness and temper arrogance. Sadness makes me a little happier every time I am smart enough to let it in.

And when I do open the door to sadness, it is an inspiration for cooking. In the face of feeling sad, I am my best as a cook, because cooking is the happiness in which I am always comforted.

In the fragrance of cinnamon, orange and red wine braising meat, I found shelter from winter cold, comfort from loss and my ongoing happiness.

ready for the oven

Brasato di manzo e pancetta fresca al vino rosso Beef and pork belly braised in red wine

3 pound piece beef cut for braising (brisket, chuck, flat iron, shank) 1.5 pounds pork belly salt 1 yellow onion 2 carrots 2 celery stalks 1/2 bunch red chard or red beet tops 2 cups chicken stock 2 tablespoons tomato concentrate 2 tablespoons lard (or olive oil) 1 cinnamon stick grated zest of 1 orange 2 bay leaves 1/2 bottle of good, full bodied red wine pepper to taste

The evening before, season the meats generously with salt and place in the refrigerator. Take them out about an hour before you plan to start cooking to let them come to room temperature.

In the meantime, slice the onion in thin half moons, chop the carrots and celery, wash and chop the chard or beet tops. Warm the stock and dilute the tomato concentrate in it.

Heat the lard in a Dutch oven on the stove top. Carefully brown the beef and pork in it on all sides and over a medium low flame. Transfer to a plate.

just out of the oven

Soften the vegetables in the Dutch oven with the cinnamon stick, zest and bay leaves. Turn the heat off and place the meat back in the Dutch oven. Cover with the wine and stock and season with salt and pepper.

Lid the pot and place it in a 350˚F oven for 2.5 to 3 hours, until the meat is fork tender.

Discard the bay and cinnamon. Rest the meat on a cutting board while finishing the sauce.

Using a hand held blender, puree the vegetable chunks in the liquid where the meat has braised. Let the sauce simmer while cutting the meat and adjusting it on a platter.

Pour the sauce over the sliced meat and serve.


  • Perfect accompaniments for this recipe are polenta, mashed or steamed potatoes, or gnocchi with butter and parmigiano
  • Brasato is even better the day after. For maximum effect, let it rest in its cooking liquid overnight before preparing it for serving