SPEZZATINO IN UMIDO
It is getting very cold here in Venice and nothing says more winter time than cooking up a Spezzatino in Umido alla Veneta.
The “Spezzatino”, as we call a stew in Italian, is a meat-based recipe, which involves cooking chunks of meat of about 3-5 cm over a low heat for a very long time.
In the Italian Dictionary Treccani, the word “spezzatino” is described as follows:
…. a simple dish, homemade, with meat cut into small pieces, usually floured and browned in a pan with oil or butter, then wet with wine and finally simmered with the addition of tomato, salt, pepper and various odors, possibly, also of vegetables such as celery, carrots, onion or potatoes: lamb, beef, veal …..
It is a common preparation around the world, especially in Asian and African cuisine, where many meat recipes are prepared with this method.
The Spezzatino probably originated from the need to cook the poorest meat cuts, which required long cooking, in the fastest possible way, to save fuel. Mixing them with other less noble ingredients, such as vegetables, reduced the amount of meat needed, whilst producing filling and economical complete dishes.
There are thousands of recipes for stews and today we would like to propose a basic recipe from the Veneto Region, which focuses on the basic steps for preparing a stew that is soft and tasty.
Spezzatino in umido is a classic recipe of Italian cuisine. Many do not like it because sometimes it can result too tough and chewy, but using the right cut of meat and making it cook on low heat for a long time, the result will be guaranteed.
One of the most important aspects, when preparing a stew, is the choice of the cut of meat: you have to choose a rich connective tissue cut, one which, during the long cooking, will release the gelatinous part called Collagen, giving the meat the softness and juiciness, typical of a good stew.
We prefer beef cuts from the shoulder or the cheeks, but if you want you can use a mix of both, since the cheeks are a much softer kind of meat but with a stronger flavour, hence more suited for a very spicy stew.
If you decide to go for a pork stew, the shoulder is the more suitable cut, like for the lamb.
And a little interesting fact: in Veneto we also prepare our stew with Horse or Donkey meat. This is a long historic tradition, which goes back to the times when The Republic of Venice was fighting in the mainland for the control of the territory. During these battles many horses and donkey were left to die in the fields. The local people, who were so poor, would not let such a source of fresh good meat go to waste. Therefore they used the dead animals and devised many recipes with it.
Usually a stew in Italy is served with its abundant sauce on a base of polenta, boiled rice or slices of toasted bread.
SPEZZATINO IN UMIDO ALLA VENETA
600 g of beef chunks of about 3-5 cm (as explained we use either shoulder or cheeks)
20 g of butter and a little oil
a glass of red or white wine
2 tablespoons of passata tomato sauce
salt, pepper, finely chopped herbs (whichever fresh herbs you have available)
- Peel and chop the onion very finely.
- Peel the carrots and cut into chunks of the same size as the meat. We always use our preferred ceramic knives by U-Cook Italia!
- Flour your chunks of beef and make sure to remove any excess.
- Let’s start by browning the meat with the vegetables. We prefer to use a non-stick high side pan to distribute the meat well and cook at medium-high temperature until it forms a coloUred crust on the surface, from all sides. This operation can be done dry adding the fat later. We prefer to place the butter and a little oil in the pan and to add the meat and vegetables as soon as the butter has melted and the fat is really hot. Make sure to brown your meat well on all sides. This will help to keep the juices in the meat, producing a tender stew.
- As soon as the meat is nice and brown, add the glass of wine and let evaporate – this will reduce the acidity taste of the meat.
- Add the tomato sauce, cook for 15 minutes.
- Mix a tablespoon of flour with a little broth, enough to make a smooth paste, with no lumps. Add this paste to the stew and pour enough broth to cover the meat.
- Cook for at least two hours at very low heat but alway making sure the stew is bubbling away. Halfway through cooking add salt and pepper to taste.
- Towards the end of cooking add your herbs and check if you need to add more salt.
- Once the meat is really tender, turn the heat off.
- Serve hot on a bed of polenta.