Italian Pot Roast – Braised Beef in Tomato Sauce
My partner Vincenzo and I went to the supermarket the other day and did a drive-by through the meat section. While I was looking for some local Toulouse sausages, he holds up a good-sized beef pot roast. “Hey, this would be fantastic if it’s cooked with vegetables and tomato sauce for a few hours on the stove.” “Great,” I said. “You know how to make it?”, knowing full-well this full-blooded Neapolitan had no intention of stepping into the kitchen to create anything remotely delicious. He shoots me a cute little smile as he puts it in the shopping cart. Fine. I now had the task of finding a recipe for, or creating some iteration of, an Italian Pot Roast in tomato sauce like, ‘mamma used to make.’ This is what I came up with.
To be honest, this is a super-easy recipe that uses one pot, and can be scaled up or down depending on how many people you have.
- Prep time: 30 minutes
- Cook time: around 4-5 hours (yeah, I know…)
- Serves 4
- 1.5 pound chuck beef roast, boneless (ours in France come with a strip of fat around it, already tied up)
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 pound smoky bacon, pancetta, Italian Guinciale, or French lardons, cut into cubes
- 1 cup each, chopped: onion, carrot, celery
- 1 small can of tomato paste
- 2 (14 oz) cans of chopped tomatoes
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup good red wine (optional) – Chianti does well
- 6 cups of water and 3 beef bouillon cubes, or 6 cups of beef stock
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 pound of pasta – we used Penne Rigate, but you can use any type of pasta
Recipe for Italian Pot Roast with Tomato Sauce
- Rub the salt, pepper and 1 minced clove of garlic onto both sides of the roast and let it sit while you cut the vegetables: Our roasts in France come pretty lean and they slip a strip of fat around it before tying it. It’s good to have a bit of fat, but if you feel there’s too much, trim some away. You can also used dried garlic or garlic powder for the rub. I also have diced garlic that is frozen that’s super easy to take out when I need.
- Cut up the onion, celery and carrot and set aside
- Cook the bacon: In a large Dutch oven or heavy metal pot, cook the bacon. I add 2 tbsp of olive oil since our bacon is pretty meaty and doesn’t have much fat. Reduce the olive oil to 1 Tbsp if you have fatty bacon. Note: Le Creusetmakes some great ceramic Dutch ovens. Here I used a 24cm induction pot from Lagostina. Cast iron works well, too. Cook the bacon until slightly crispy, then scoop out with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel.
- Brown the roast: Brown the roast well in the pot on both sides – Medium heat for about 5 minutes, then remove from pot and set aside.
- Saute the vegetables: Saute the vegetables in the pot with the bacon fat until slightly tender – about 5 minutes, then add 2 cloves of garlic and saute for another minute.
- Add 2 cups of beef broth to the vegetables: Let the liquid cook down so it’s absorbed into the vegetables. This also allows you to loosen all the tasty garlic and other bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add 2 more cups of beef broth and do the same. If you want to add wine, you can add it here. Cook about 10 minutes.
- Let the Italian Beef Roast cook: Add the bacon back to the pot along with the roast. Add the tomato paste, the chopped tomatoes, the oregano and the remaining 2 cups of beef broth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Get the pot boiling, then reduce to a simmer and let it cook for around 4 hours. I gave it a stir every 1/2 hour just to keep track of things. You’ll easily be able to pull the meat apart, but test it at the 3 hour mark for your preferred doneness. You’ll also want the sauce to be thick.
- Boil your pasta in salted water: Until the desired doneness. Then either spread the delicious, chunky tomato sauce on top and enjoy the pasta first and have the meat separately after, or cut the meat into pieces, put it back into the sauce and ladle a good amount onto your pasta. You can also use polenta instead of pasta.
Note: you can also make this Italian pot roast a crock pot, but I have no idea how those work and am not a fan of cooking something while I’m not in the house. Not everyone has the time to cook something this long, so it’s also a great weekend recipe and you’ll have leftovers for the week.
The lovely thing about this meal is that the sauce cooks down nicely into a thick Italian pasta sauce and you have your ‘Primo’ and ‘Secondo’ all in one dish – or your entree and your main dish. Italians often start with a pasta as their entree and then proceed to a meat or fish main dish. We usually just have a plate of pasta, but this made the meal even more special.
Let me know if you’ve tried it! You might even want to try preparing Mediterranean Artichokes!
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