8 December, 2017
Eat This Poem, A Literary Feast. Italian Beef Stew
I’m giddy with excitement to tell you about the latest addition to my cookbook collection. “Eat This Poem” by Nicole Gulotta. Nicole is a woman who thinks so similar to me – relating life and experiences to food; and in her book… recipes inspired by poems. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book and devour every page. (You should know by now that I read cookbooks like a novel.) It’s a lovely read to just experience Nicole’s walk through life, her eloquent writing style, and the beautiful poems she shares. The recipes are a bonus!
This time of year we are filled with memories and traditions of holidays past. The Italian Beef Stew seemed the appropriate choice for this post especially after reading the poem and Nicole’s story for this recipe. An excerpt:
“Food memories are inescapable. They are chosen for us, given flavor and meaning before we are old enough to learn the names of the ingredients.”
She goes on to say:
“Family recipes are like old friends, the kind you meet again after years apart, then pick up where you left off as if time had not forced you to endure an absence. My grandmother Josephine’s soup is like that……. I was suddenly eight years old again, mesmerized by gold broth glistening like ornaments on the tree….”
My ornaments are on the tree, so let’s get to it!
Roast in Dutch oven with water covering the top. My pan is only 6 quarts (Nicole’s was 7.5 quarts) so I had to cut the meat into three large chunks to fit it in the pan and have enough room to cover with water for boiling. Knorr beef bouillon being dissolved in a little of the beef broth from the pan. I have to agree with Nicole on using Knorr brand. It lent a great flavor to the broth.
Vegetables added to the roast.
Makings for meatballs. I know, I know, I just made meatballs. What am I doing making more? Well, this recipe calls for meatballs in the stew, so there you have it. Of course it’s never a problem for me to make more meatballs. LOL. I used Nicole’s recipe (included in her Eat This Poem cookbook) as suggested in the Stew recipe.
Just love how the meatball mixture looks when incorporating all the ingredients. It’s like a work of art – Picasso in food? Well, maybe that’s a stretch.
Now that’s one “biga meataball.” Actually, it’s the meatball mixture before I made it into the meatballs. I was so happy when my meatballs came out to the exact number that Nicole says it should in her recipe. That NEVER happens! Added raw meatballs to the stew to simmer and cook.
And it’s done!
It turned out to be a nice hearty stew with intense flavors and big chunks of meats. The meatballs and small pasta (at the bottom of the stew) were added “gifts” to the stew.
- 2 1/2 or 3 pound chuck roast or top round roast
- 10-12 cups of water, plus more to cover the meat
- 3 beef bouillon cubes (Knorr brand)
- 1 tablespoon salt, plus more for pasta water
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 6 to 8 celery ribs, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 6 to 8 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
- One 8-ounce can tomato sauce (Hunt's brand)
- 1 batch Seven-Ingredient Meatballs*
- 1 pound acini di pepe (DeCecco brand)**
- Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving
- Put beef in a large (7.5 quart) Dutch oven and cover with water by about an inch. Bring to a boil and maintain a gentle boil for about 2 hours, or until the water cooks down by half.
- Add 6-8 cups more water, enough to cover the meat and bring to a hard boil for another hour, or until the broth cooks down by half again. Add another 4 cups of water to the pot. Add a small amount of the broth into a bowl and add the bouillon cubes, mashing with a fork until melted; pour back into the pot and stir. Add the salt, black pepper, celery, carrots, and tomato sauce and simmer for another hour. The meat should be tender enough to break apart with a spoon but not fall apart completely in the broth. (If you're preparing the soup the day before, stop here and put in the refrigerator overnight. The next day place the soup on low simmer for at least an hour, then proceed with final instructions. The longer it simmers, the better it will taste.)
- Make the meatballs and drop them into the pot; simmer for about 20 minutes or until tender and just cooked through. At this stage the soup is done and can be left on low heat until ready to eat.
- Before serving, boil a pot of salted water. Add the pasta and cook for 7 to 9 minutes or until al dente; remove from the heat and drain. Pour the pasta back into the pot and add a small ladle of soup broth to keep it from sticking.
- There's something of an art to arranging the soup. To serve, spoon 1/2 cup of pasta into the bottom of a shallow bowl. Add a few meatballs, scoop in a chunk of beef, and add several pieces of carrots and celery. Finish by adding ladles of broth and a generous sprinkling of Pecorino Romano cheese.
- * See recipe for 7-ingredient meatballs following this recipe in blog.
- ** If you can't find acini di pepe, Pastina (little stars) is the next best substitute, followed by orzo.
“When a recipe belongs first to your family and then is given to you when you’re old enough to use it properly and with great enthusiasm, it is the most wonderful gift.”
Seems so appropriate for “gift-giving” this time of year.
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons dried parsley
- 2 tablespoons plain bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 1 cup vegetable oil (if frying)
- Place all ingredients in a large bowl (except oil). Using both hands, massage the mixture until well incorporated. If meat is too wet, add more breadcrumbs, as needed.
- For soup, roll heaping teaspoon-size balls between your hands until round. Simmer softly in the broth for 20 minutes. You'll know they're done when the meatballs float to the top. The meatballs can also be simmered in marinara sauce and served over pasta.
You can purchase “Eat This Poem” on Amazon or directly from Nicole at Eat This Poem. And if you visit her website you’ll enjoy Nicole’s story and many more recipes. I feel a little like the Italian version of “Julie and Julia,” wanting to try each recipe and blog about it. But then, who would play me in the movie?