Make Ahead

Brasato al Barolo (Piedmont-Style Pot Roast)

December  1, 2016
3 Ratings
Photo by Emiko
Author Notes

This classic pot roast comes from northern Italy, a specialty of my husband's nonna. Some additions you may like to consider: lardo or pancetta (cut into strips, added with the vegetables), spices such as whole cloves (to be removed along with the bay leaves later) and cinnamon, and a splash of Cognac (before the red wine—let it evaporate before adding the wine). If you prefer a thicker sauce (note: that this isn't a gravy, but a much thinner sauce), rather than add flour, you can add more vegetables, up to double the amount. When you blend it, the puréed vegetables will add more body to the sauce.

I cannot recommend enough you choose a wine you like the taste of for this—it doesn't have to be expensive, but just one you like. Don't think you can use a wine that is corked or tastes like vinegar or that you don't love, as it the pot roast will taste remarkably like imperfect wine.

The next ingredient that you need to choose well is the meat—ask your butcher for a simple roast, such as chuck roast (also known as pot roast) from around the shoulder. It's known as sottopaletta in Piedmont or Cappello del Prete ('the priest's hat'). You want something with a little marbling or connective tissue in it—too lean and this can easily become too dry after cooking for so long (hence the tradition of adding lardo or pancetta to add fat).

Finally, the most important tip is to make this in advance. Its flavors are much better after a full night's rest. —Emiko

  • Serves 6
  • 2 1/2 pounds (1.2 kg) beef chuck roast/pot roast
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons (50 grams) cold butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 handful mixed fresh herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme
  • 1 bottle (25 fl oz or 750 ml) dry, full-bodied red wine (see note)
  • Water or beef stock, to cover
  • Optional: a few whole cloves, cinnamon, some juniper berries (see note)
In This Recipe
  1. Rub the beef with salt and pepper. If you like, you can tie the beef with kitchen string too, to help it keep it shape during cooking. Heat the olive oil in a (preferably ovenproof) pot, such as a Dutch oven (in Italy a terracotta pot is often used). Sear the beef in one whole piece over high heat on all sides until a nice brown crust develops. Remove the beef and set aside.
  2. Turn the heat to low. Add the onion, carrot and celery by sweating them gently with a good pinch of salt and half of the butter until the vegetables are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Return the beef to the pot, tip over the bottle of wine, add the garlic cloves, herbs (and optional spices, if using) and season with salt and pepper. Over medium heat, bring the wine to a boil and let it reduce, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add enough water (or beef stock) to cover the meat with liquid again. Place on the lid, turn heat down to low and let simmer gently for about 2 hours, turning the beef occasionally. Alternatively, if you have an ovenproof pot, you can also put this in a moderate oven (325°F/160°C) for the same amount of time.
  4. Remove the meat and set aside on a chopping board. Remove and discard bay leaves and rosemary or thyme stalks, if you used them. Then, with an immersion blender, blend the vegetables and liquid until smooth. Continue boiling the sauce over medium-high heat, uncovered, until the sauce is reduced and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Drop in the rest of the butter and swirl it through the sauce until glossy. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper, if necessary.
  5. Cut the beef into 1/3 inch slices and serve with the sauce alongside fluffy mashed potatoes or creamy, soft polenta.
  6. Note: This dish improves after a good night's rest. I like to slice the meat as described above and leave in the sauce to absorb some extra flavor, but some prefer to keep the meat whole until serving and slice later. Either way, let the brasato cool completely, then cover and refrigerate overnight (or up to three days). Then, simply reheat in the oven or stovetop before serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Crystaltune
  • Emiko
  • Ororaf
  • violet laber
    violet laber
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.

8 Reviews

Ororaf March 7, 2021
Made this recipe several times. Each time I added more and more of the recommended ingredients. Until I was even adding the juniper berries and cinnamon. It is a great recipe. I use the oven to make it.

This time I will add eight medium onions, 8x celery, and 8x carrots in order to thicken the sauce. At the end I boil down the liquid to reduce it and thicken it
violet L. March 12, 2018
I plan to prepare this pot roast and surprise my family with it this weekend. Question: Where are the notes regarding the wine, the spices, and the juniper berries?
Author Comment
Emiko March 12, 2018
Just underneath the heading photograph of the dish, you'll see the section "Author notes" and if you click on "more" you'll see the full notes.
Ororaf February 20, 2017
Additional comment: cooked in in oven
Ororaf February 20, 2017
My cut of meat had a fair amount of marbling. The wife asked the butcher for the flatter cut of beef rather than the more round cut. The round cut has less marbling. I made a few mistakes which I will resolve during v2. I forgot to reduce the wine per the instructions. I left out the butter at the end too.

The recipe leaves you with a very generous amount of gravy. I reduced it using high heat for 20 minutes. I was left with a quart 1/2 plus. Served it with fluffy mashed potatoes, steamed garlic green beans, and Cuban arroz congri. For dessert freshly made salted caramel ice cream.

For v2 add the pancetta, reduce the wine, quadruple the onions, celery, and carrots. These get blended anyway.
Crystaltune February 12, 2017
I'm pretty sure that this was the best pot roast ever. I prepared it in LeCreuset Dutch oven, used a 3 1/2 lb chuck arm roast and at step 3 above, cooked on a lowest simmer with a lid for 3-4 hours. This is that great all-day-read-a-book roast that has the most delicious sauce. Worth every minute! Served with russet mashed potatoes.
TAM December 12, 2016
I made this as written and after 2.5 hours, the beef was quite tough. I wound up putting it in the slow cooker for 6 hours while I went about my day, and returned to find it falling-apart tender (so not sliceable as in the recipe/picture, but a perfectly fine outcome anyway) - people making this may not want to assume/plan for only 2 hours of simmering.
Author Comment
Emiko December 13, 2016
Hi, it shouldn't be falling apart, it should still be firm enough that it can be sliced. 2 hours is sufficient time for it to be cooked through, and if you have bought good quality meat as described in the notes with a bit of marbling, and it's been cooking in wine (a tenderiser), it shouldn't be tough - it should be firm. But also. The key, the most important part, which I mention in the recipe, is to give it some time, so make this the day before. Slice it, or keep it whole, however you prefer (I prefer the previous) and place it back in its sauce until the next day. Then reheat and serve -- it absolutely is transformed and you will have tender, delicious slices of beef, without having to do anything else!