Friday, March 7, 2008


Neapolitan Pot Roast With Creamy Onion Gravy

The only word for this dish is luscious. The recipe is my adaptation from the one in a wonderful 1997 cookbook called In Nonna's Kitchen, by Carol Field. Field scoured rural Italy and collected recipes from the "grandmothers" (nonnas) and brought them together in this book. She says of this recipe: "This dish is real home cooking, something that you would never find in a restaurant. It was once the sauce used by poor people in Naples for Sundays and holidays before it was replaced by the now famous ragù." If that's progress, all I can say is, give me the old days.

Notes: you'll think there's no way you can eat all these onions, but trust me. What you're doing here is "sweating" them down to their component parts. The juice has no place to go but into the meat, which is tenderized and flavored by it. The solids are pulverized into a creamy consistency. The name of the dish is no accident. There's just no dairy in it. As for the cut of meat: I just use a standard boneless pot roast and it works fine.

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) diced pancetta
3 pounds finest pot roast in one piece, such as point of the rump, or bottom round
Salt and pepper to taste

8 large (about 4 pounds) sweet white onions, finely sliced
2 to 3 carrots, chopped
1 small celery rib, finely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh marjoram
1 cup beef broth
1/3 cup dry white or red wine
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or 1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 lb. wide pasta such as linguine or egg noodles, cooked al dente

Warm the olive oil and pancetta in a deep, heavy casserole or a 12-inch heavy sauté pan large enough to hold the meat and all the onions comfortably. Season meat and add to hot oil. Sear over high heat until it is well browned, 7 to 8 minutes per side. While meat is browning, combine broth, wine and tomatoes in a medium bowl and set aside. Once it is browned, remove the meat to a plate. Do not clean out pan. Lower heat and add the onions, carrots, celery, parsley, basil, and marjoram. Cover and cook over the lowest possible heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and limp but have taken on no color, at least 25 to 30 minutes. (The onions will cook down considerably.) Return browned meat to the pot, burying it completely in the onions. Add combined liquids, cover the pot and cook over the lowest possible heat another 2 ½ to 3 hours, until the onions are a thick mass and the meat is fork-tender. Remove from heat and allow to rest 10-15 minutes before serving.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Serve half of the sauce over the pasta and the rest over the meat.


SheilMack said...

Ralph, love seeing what you're cooking up for Fridays. Tried your Mac N Cheese a couple of weeks ago - big hit with the crowd. Do you make these delectable meals each week and take your picture, or do you have a ready supply of photos for all your recipes? Concerning today's recipe, I blew the picture up and it looks nonna awesome, but I need a little help with the pasta portion of this meal. What type do you use and does one just have the pasta as a side dish with the gravy on it? A little clarification would be appreciated. Thanks.

Ralph said...

Sheila! Sorry, guess more detail about the pasta would be useful. A wide noodle is better--either linguine or even egg noodles. Serve the meat with some of the gravy on it, and serve the pasta as a side with more gravy on it. It all smooshes up together on your plate, you can get a mouthful of meat and gravy and pasta all together or just meat or just pasta (or heck, just gravy....)

I did take some pics when I started of some things I wanted to post, and now I'm running out. I made the carrot cake special for the blog so I could have the picture--we don't normally have things like cake sitting around here. Steve took the leftovers to his office. I'm going to have to start making things again--easy, because summer recipes are coming up now and I'll be making 'em.

Glad the mac and cheese was a hit.

SheilMack said...

Thank you, Ralph. I'm going with the egg noodles. Can't wait to try this one out!

Cuidado said...

Looks delicious and good music to go with it. I'm having traditional turkey dinner tomorrow. I've been craving it since you had it q week or so ago.

Ralph said...

Yum! Sounds good for the whole tribe you've got there, Cuidado. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

I am hoping by the time I visit DC in the Fall you will have opened a restaurant. This recipe sounds so delicious will try for Sunday dinner. Thanks so much.

Ralph said...

Z&M, Having tried catering for a (very short) while I can say unequivocally it's much more fun to post a recipe once a week than cook for crowds every night! If you collect all my recipes you can open your own restaurant. You have my permission!

Nan said...

Wow - that looks yummy. I will be trying that one!

Kat said...

Nothing like a yummy pot roast to ward off the chilly nights, and this one looks spectacular!

Ralph said...

Nan and Kat: bon appétit! If you ever make it, let ,e know how it comes out.