Culinary Travels: Veronese Beef and Cherry Pastissada

beef and gratin


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beef and gratin

Culinary Travels: Veronese Beef and Cherry Pastissada


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Recipe by Chef Nino Zoccali and The Restaurant Pendolino

Prep Time 30 minutes

Cooking Time 3 hours

Serves 4

The traditional version of this dish, of which my recipe is inspired, is pastissada de caval. It was and still is, made traditionally with horse meat. This is the most important dish of Verona, a region where equine butchers are more prevalent than conventional butchers. This recipe is a more modern version, using beef as the meat and fresh cherries from the Veronese hills. It’s served with a wonderful gratin of pancetta and celeriac – the latter being almost exclusively cultivated in the province of Verona, to the point where it is often referred to as ‘the celery of Verona’.

Beef and cherry pastissada

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) boneless beef shin
  • 350 ml (1¹⁄3 cups) Valpolicella DOC red wine (or any medium-bodied red wine)
  • 1 litre (4 cups) Beef stock
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 2 teaspoons mustard powder
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon raw sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 600 g (1 lb 5 oz) ripe fresh (Veronese) cherries, pitted 
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Celeriac and pancetta gratin

  • 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) celeriac, peeled and cut into 4–5 mm
  • (¼ inch) thick slices
  • 50 g (2 oz) butter, plus extra for brushing
  • 100 g (3½ oz) rolled pancetta, thinly sliced and diced into 5 mm (¼ inch) pieces
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely diced
  • 100 g (3½ oz) Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F).

To make the pastissada, heat a deep flameproof casserole dish over high heat.

Add the oil and heat for 2 minutes, then add the beef shin and brown on all sides.

Add the red wine and cook until almost evaporated. Add the beef stock, garlic, bay leaf, cinnamon, mustard powder, orange and lemon juice, raw sugar and pepper and stir thoroughly. Put the lid on the casserole and transfer to the oven.

Cook for 2 hours, turning frequently.

Add the cherries to the casserole, cover and cook for a further 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make the gratin, bring a pan of water to the boil, add the celeriac and blanch for 2 minutes, then drain.

Heat the butter in a sauté pan over low heat and cook the pancetta, onion and garlic until the onion has softened and is fully cooked.

Divide the Parmigiano Reggiano in half, keeping half for the top of the dish.

Arrange a layer of celeriac neatly over the base of a baking dish, brush with butter and season with salt and pepper. Scatter with a little pancetta, onion and garlic mix and then grated Parmigiano. Repeat the layers until you have used all the ingredients, finishing with a layer of Parmigiano.

Remove the beef casserole from the oven, turn the temperature to 200°C (400°F) and bake the gratin for 20 minutes until golden brown.

Strain the liquid from the casserole into a pan and simmer over low heat on the stovetop until it has reduced and thickened to a sauce consistency. Reheat the beef and cherries in the sauce and then lift out onto plates. Whisk the butter into the sauce just before serving, and spoon over the meat and cherries. Serve with the gratin.

Beef or veal stock

Prep Time 1½ hours, plus 2–3 hours chilling

Cooking Time 4½–5½ hours

  • 2 kg (4 lb 8 oz) fresh beef bones and trimmings 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 100 g (3½ oz) onion, roughly chopped
  • 100 g (3½ oz) carrot, roughly chopped
  • 100 g (3½ oz) celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 40 g (1½ oz) garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 2 Italian parsley sprigs

Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F).

Place the bones and trimmings in a roasting tin and bake until nicely browned (approximately 1–1½ hours). Heat the olive oil in a deep heavy-based frying pan and sauté the onion, carrot, celery and garlic until they are nicely browned.

Deglaze the roasting tin with a little water, then transfer to a large saucepan and add 4 litres (16 cups) water with all the other ingredients. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and slowly simmer without a lid for 3–4 hours. Skim away the excess fat and other particles that come to the surface of the liquid during the cooking process. Strain the liquid through a fine strainer and refrigerate for

2–3 hours or until it has a consistency similar to set jelly. Excess fat will solidify at the top of the refrigerated stock. Remove this with a spoon and discard before using the stock.

Beef (or veal) stock can be made in advance and frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

Makes approximately 2.5 litres (10 cups)

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