This recipe was printed in Epicurious magazine in 2007 as "Brasato al Barolo." The first time I made it, I did use Barolo, but then decided that I'd much rather drink a $40 bottle of wine than cook with it. Cabernet or Zinfandel work quite nicely - but get something you like to drink so you can have a glass or two while cooking! Using a food processor to finely chop all the vegetables and pancetta makes the preparation a lot faster. Yummy with mashed potatoes or creamy polenta. Leftovers are excellent heated, with a little sauce on a crusty roll. —CookOnTheFly
Put oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Heat the oil in a 4-5 qt heavy ovenproof pot (pot must have a lid) over moderately high heat until hot, but not smoking.
Pat the meat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Brown meat on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Lower the heat if the pot starts to scorch. Transfer meat to a plate.
Add pancetta to oil in the pot and saute over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until browned and fat is rendered, about 3 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and saute, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.
Add garlic, thyme, and rosemary and saute, stirring, until garlic begins to soften and turn golden, about 2 minutes.
Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Add wine and boil until liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add water and bring to a simmer, then return meat along with any juices accumulated on plate to pot. Cover pot with lid and transfer to oven. Braise until meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
Remove pot from oven. Transfer meat to a cutting board.
Skim the fat from the surface of sauce and discard along with herb stems. Boil sauce until reduced by about one third, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Cut meat across the grain into 1/2 inch thick slices and return to sauce.
Optional: Beef improves in flavor if made 3 days ahead. Cool beef completely in sauce, uncovered, then cover and chill in the fridge. Reheat, covered, in a preheated 350 degree F oven until hot, 25 to 30 minutes, then slice meat.