Brasato al Barolo is a traditional Italian dish from the Piedmont region. It’s a culinary delight that combines simplicity with elegance. This dish is a perfect example of how Italian cuisine often transforms a few quality ingredients into an extraordinary meal.
The name itself, “Brasato al Barolo,” tells you all you need to know: it’s beef braised in Barolo wine. But there’s so much more to this dish than just the main ingredients.
The recipe starts with a choice cut of beef, typically a chuck roast. It’s slowly cooked in a rich sauce made from Barolo wine, one of Italy’s finest red wines.
The deep and complex flavors of the wine infuse the beef as it simmers, creating a tender and succulent dish. What makes Brasato al Barolo special is the slow cooking process (“brasatura”). It allows the flavors to meld beautifully.
Along with the wine, you add other ingredients such as garlic, onions, carrots, and herbs, which give the dish additional layers of flavor. These ingredients are not just extras; they are integral to creating the final, harmonious blend of aromas.
But this dish is not just about taste. It’s a part of Italian culture and history, often served on special occasions and at family gatherings.
Preparing and enjoying Brasato al Barolo at home is a way to connect with Italian culinary traditions and enjoy the rich and comforting flavors that have been loved for generations.
Now I’m going to show you my step-by-step recipe: how to make the perfect Italian beef stew braised in Barolo wine! Flavorful, tender, and soft enough to melt in your mouth!
- Prep Time: 30 Min + 12 H marinating
- Cook Time: 2 H 10 Min
- Servings: 4
- 1 Kg (2.2 pounds) of boneless beef chuck roast
- 1 bottle of Barolo wine
- 2 medium carrots
- 2 stalks of celery
- 1 large onion (yellow or white)
- 1 medium potato
- 1 clove of garlic
- a bunch of aromatic herbs (such as bay leaves, sage and rosemary)
- 3 cloves
- 4 black peppercorns
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tablespoon of unsulted butter
- 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- fine salt to taste
Kitchen Tools and Equipment
To make the traditional Italian recipe for Brasato al Barolo, you’ll need a variety of kitchen tools and equipment.
- Large, high-sided/heavy-bottomed/non-stick pan: Essential for slow-cooking the meat and ensuring even heat distribution.
- Sharp chef’s knife: For trimming and slicing the beef, if necessary, as well as chopping vegetables.
- Cutting Board: Preferably large and sturdy, for preparing ingredients.
- Kitchen twine: To tie up herbs and flavorings
- Vegetable Peeler: For peeling carrots or other vegetables called for in the recipe.
- Wooden spoon or spatula: For stirring ingredients in the pot without scratching it.
- An immersion blender: Useful for blending the Barolo sauce to achieve a smooth texture.
- A large bowl: To hold the meat and all the ingredients
Brasato al Barolo Recipe: Instructions
Step 1) – Using thin kitchen twine, tie together the herbs: the rosemary, sage and bay leaves. Then clean the celery, carrots and onion. Cut these vegetables into large pieces. Finally, place the vegetables, herbs and a whole garlic clove without peel in a large bowl.
Step 2) – Put the flavorings (cloves, pepper and cinnamon stick) in a small gauze tied with kitchen twine. The purpose of this step is to contain the flavorings so that they can be easily removed later.
Step 3) – Add the flavorings to the vegetables and herbs. Then add the meat and cover with the wine.
Step 4) – Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinate the meat for at least 12 hours. At the end of this time, remove the meat and place it on a cutting board.
PLEASE NOTE: I usually prepare the meat for the brasato the night before. That way, in the morning, the meat is marinated just right and I can start cooking it.
Step 5) – Pat the meat dry with paper towels. Then brown the meat over high heat in a high-sided nonstick pan. Turn it on all sides to form a nice crust on the surface.
PLEASE NOTE: One of the most common mistakes in cooking this dish is to braise the beef with vegetables and wine without browning it first. This step, which is ESSENTIAL, allows the juices to remain in the beef, keeping it tender and soft despite the long cooking time. In this way, the meat almost melts in your mouth without losing its flavor and aroma.
Step 6) – When browning is complete, drain the vegetables, herbs and spices with a slotted spoon and add to the meat. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes. If you want a dish richer in vegetables, you can add another chopped carrot and celery at this point in the cooking process.
Step 7) – Now you can adjust the salt and add the wine. Cover and cook on a low heat for about 2 hours, turning the meat from time to time.
WHAT TO DO IF THE SAUCE IS TOO RUNNY? If you think the sauce is too liquid, add 1 medium peeled potato cut into pieces after 1 hour of cooking. This will make the sauce thicker and creamier.
Making the Barolo Sauce
Step 8) – When the braised beef is done, remove it from the pan and set it aside on a plate with the lid on to keep it warm and tender. Now remove the herbs and spices. Blend the vegetables with an immersion blender to obtain the delicious BAROLO SAUCE.
How to Serve Brasato al Barolo
Step 9) – Finally, slice the beef, trying to get 2-3 slices per person, and arrange them in a serving dish. Pour the Barolo sauce over the slices and serve immediately. Accompany the brasato di manzo with a delicious soft polenta, just like they do in Piedmont! Buon appetito!
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How to Store Brasato
Storing Brasato al Barolo which is important to maintain its flavor and safety. Here are some tips for storing it:
First allow the Brasato al Barolo to cool to room temperature.
Transfer the cooled Brasato al Barolo into an airtight container. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
If you want to store it for a longer period, you can freeze it. Place the cooled stew in a freezer-safe container. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.
If reheating from frozen, it’s often best to let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Side Dish for Brasato al Barolo
When serving Brasato al Barolo there are several side dishes that complement it well. Here are a few options:
- Polenta: Creamy or grilled polenta is a classic pairing. Its mild, slightly sweet flavor and soft texture are perfect for soaking up the rich sauce of the brasato.
- Roasted Vegetables: Roasted root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, and potatoes can add a nice contrast in texture while absorbing the flavors of the brasato.
- Mashed Potatoes: Creamy mashed potatoes are always a hit. They pair well with the rich and flavorful sauce of brasato al Barolo.
- Bread: Simple, crusty bread is great for mopping up the delicious sauce.
Best Cut for Brasato al Barolo
For preparing “Brasato al Barolo”, a traditional Italian braised beef dish cooked with Barolo wine, the best cut of meat to use is a chuck roast.
This cut, known as “spalla” or “cappello del prete” in Italian, is ideal because of its rich marbling and connective tissue.
When slowly cooked, these elements break down, resulting in a tender, flavorful dish.
The chuck roast’s balance of meat and fat ensures that it remains moist and succulent throughout the long braising process, absorbing the flavors of the Barolo wine and other ingredients.
Origin of Brasato
Brasato originated in Piedmont and its name comes from the local dialect: the word “brasa” means embers, which was the original cooking method for this ancient dish.
The meat was placed in a pot in the middle of the embers and left to cook for hours.
The wine used for the marinade was also used for the slow cooking, allowing the aromas to flavor the meat.
This recipe was influenced by another from neighboring France, the ” Boeuf à la Mode “, which is cooked similarly to brasato.
The origins of brasato can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when slow cooking methods were popular for making tough cuts of meat more tender and flavorful.
It’s said that Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour said, “Today we have made history, now we can go eat brasato” after refusing the Austrian ultimatum!
The use of Barolo wine, however, is a more modern development, probably coinciding with the rise in popularity and availability of Barolo wine.