An Italian Pot Roast means red wine, tomato, LOTS of garlic, and herbs we think of as typical in Italian cooking; all served over homemade polenta.
I’m relatively new to pot roast, before making this Italian Pot Roast I had only made another one just recently. Maybe I’ve simply come back home again…to better pot roast. Not because I’ve never had it but because I simply don’t have a recollection of it being memorable enough to prepare for my family.
I’ve always considered that my mom was a good cook but she was also not particularly inspired either. I grew up in a family with six kids; meals were very Midwestern traditional and followed a pretty standard rotation.
There was fried chicken, spaghetti, burgers, hot dogs, pork chops, the dreaded liver and onions, and yes I guess a pot roast appeared occasionally too. Tuna or fish sticks every doggone night Friday night.
I think mom’s Chicken Soup with Dumplings might have been my favorite, tied with my dad’s Fried Chicken; back when food was really fried. The only air fryer we might have seen would have been something futuristic on ‘The Jetson’s!’
For all the years this blog has been active, I only recently included my first attempt using this recipe for Sherry Pot Roast from Giada DeLaurentis. It was also delicious; the sherry adds a nice touch, and the gravy is thickened by blending some of the vegetables into the juices. It inspired me to try more variations.
After that first successful exercise I still wanted to head to Italy and started thinking of what that meant for a recipe I imagined for Italian Pot Roast, while also discovering it is already a thing. Called Stracotto (How Italian? Wikipedia offers it in the Italian language!). It does differ slightly from a traditional American version of pot roast.
You would think a recipe of Giada’s would be an Italian version, and rightly so…but I opted to not include fennel and Cipollini onions, primarily because I had neither on hand and partially because I didn’t want to take a chance on the licorice flavor of fennel in this recipe. And as I learned, it’s not what would be considered an Italian Pot Roast.
An Italian Pot Roast starts with a base of soffritto which includes finely chopped onions, carrots and celery. That was good to know, it’s not just a difference in ingredients but how they are prepared as well.
It does not include the veggies we are more familiar with like large pieces of potato, carrots, and even onion. I modified mine a bit from the Italian Pot Roast norm as I still wanted those carrots on the side so I added whole pieces of them to the dish while it simmered. I never considered adding potatoes as well because I was serving this on polenta…that was a delicious call!
And there are mushrooms and garlic; lots of garlic. You say 4 cloves and I’ll put in eight…which is what is in this dish. I’ve included the garlic with the soffrito so the flavor has been softened during saute and 8 was not too much, not at all!
To finish off the differences, tomatoes make an appearance and they are evident in the unique and delicious gravy.
I’ve discovered it also can go by the term Stracotto di Manzo. Literally translated that means “overcooked beef” which sounds about right. Luckily for the chuck roast used in this dish, overcooked is the way towards tender so it’s all good.
I loved Giada’s version, it made a difference in my outlook and now I’m on a roll. This also knocked the socks off most pot roasts I’ve ever had. The combination of ingredients were stellar and the coup de grace was to serve it over a bed of buttery, cheese polenta.
Oh the polenta. This is almost too easy to make, MUCH easier than mashing potatoes and yes, I could sit down with a bowl and eat it all by itself. Married to this Italian Pot Roast? A divine and easy meal, great for Sunday dinner and special enough for company.
I’m not done yet either…I’ve already made another one; a Mexican version served on Cilantro Rice…I think this effort could go on a long time because at the center of it is an inexpensive piece of beef; made magical only through long, slow cooking. But magical it is.
Try this variation the next time you are hungry for a pot roast and let me know what you think. I’ve also got a couple of other fantastic main dish courses you might enjoy:
- Lemon Thyme Roasted Chicken
- Italian Sausage Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Cream
- Crown Roast of Pork with Wild Rice Stuffing
PIN IT! ‘Italisn Pot Roast’
Italian Pot Roast (Stracotto) with Parmesan Polenta
For the Italian Pot Roast
- 4 pounds boneless beef chuck roast
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1-2 Tablespoon canola oil; enough to just cover the bottom of your pot
- 1.5 cups beef broth
- 1.5 cups dry red wine or additional broth
- 8 oz tomato sauce
- 2.5 cups thinly sliced onions
- 1.5 pounds sliced fresh mushrooms
- ¾ cup chopped celery
- ¾ cup sliced carrots for soffrito
- 8 garlic cloves minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1.5 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 4 whole carrots cleaned, quartered and cut into 2-3 long pieces each (to cook with the chuck roast)
- 4 Tablespoons Cornmeal
- Fresh parsley
For the Polenta
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup half and half
- 1 cup cornmeal
- ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons butter cubed
- To Make the Italian Pot Roast
- Sprinkle roast liberally with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat the Canola oil and brown the roast on all sides.
- Add the onions, mushrooms, celery, carrots, garlic, and all of the spices and saute for about 6-8 minutes until softened.
- Add the broth, wine, tomato sauce, and larger carrot pieces to the pot, then cover and cook on low heat for 2.5 to 3 hours or until meat is fork tender. Check meat every 30 minutes; to make sure it is simmering and to add more broth if necessary.
- Remove the meat and vegetables to a serving platter and tent with foil to keep warm.
- Discard the bay leaves. Skim as much fat as you can from cooking juices and blend the sauce using either a stick or regular blender (do not overfill your blender). Bring the sauce back to a simmer and turn to low and return the meat to the pan.
- NOTE: If your gravy is not thick enough, gradually add corn meal, starting with 2 Tablespoons, and stir constantly. Add more corn meal as necessary until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Serve roast, carrots, and gravy over polenta and garnish with fresh parsley.
- To Make the Polenta
- Bring broth and half and half to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to a gentle boil; slowly whisk in cornmeal. Cook and stir with a wooden spoon until polenta is thickened and pulls away cleanly from side of pan, 15-20 minutes. (Mixture will be very thick.)
- Remove from heat; stir in Parmesan cheese and butter. Serve with roast.