Monica Bernardoni and her family run Bottega di Giovannini, a small wine bar and restaurant in the historical center of the town of Radda in Chianti. She cites local legends for the origins of this Tuscan beef stew, which say that it was invented in Impruneta, a little town a few miles south of Florence, by the fornaciai, or furnace workers, who baked the terra-cotta tiles for Brunelleschi’s famous Duomo. “They were working so much that they couldn’t stop to cook,” says Monica, “so in the morning they would put all of the ingredients in terra-cotta pots. They let them bake slowly in a corner of their furnace until it was time to eat lunch. There are many interpretations, some adding a little tomato, but the original is with wine only.” —Stephanie Johnson
Serves 4 to 6
- 2.2 pounds beef chuck
- 1 head of garlic, peeled
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 pinch of ground pepper
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 bottle Chianti Classico
- Cut the beef into large chunks, along the natural muscle separations where possible. Place all of the ingredients in a deep sauce pan. Be sure to pour in enough red wine to cover the beef entirely.
- Cook on stovetop at medium-low heat for 1.5 hours. (The cooking time depends on the quantity of meat; for example, 11 pounds of meat requires about 4 hours.)
- Keep the pot covered and cook slowly until the beef is falling apart and the red wine has reduced into a rich sauce. If the dish is still too liquid and you’re ready to eat, remove the cover to allow the sauce to reduce more quickly. Although unconventional, just before serving you can also add a spoonful or two of potato starch mixed with an equal amount of water to thicken the sauce.
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