I'm always amazed how delicious some Italian dishes can taste with such little effort. Peposo Alla Fornacina a wonderful Tuscan Beef & Black Pepper Stew, is one such marvel. Very few ingredients go into its making, but the results are nothing short of miraculous. Soft, meltingly tender beef is stewed until it gives up the fight and creates a rich, decadent and impossibly fragrant sauce.
What is Peposo Alla Fornacina?
In its essence, Peposo Alla Fornacina is a beef and black pepper stew. Black pepper, red wine, garlic and beef are the traditional ingredients. There's a slight twist for my Peoposo Alla Fornacino recipe with the appearance of fresh herbs.
Typically, the lead flavour comes from Chianti wine and black pepper (lots of it). You'd think that the pepper would create a spicy dish, but you'd be mistaken - the finished stew is rich and flavourful but not a hint of spice. A wonderfully mellow affair.
As I mentioned, I do like to add a little more fragrance in my recipe which, while not hard-core authentic, isn't going to ruffle the feathers of too many Tuscan nonnas. I like to use herb bags that I can put the black peppercorns and herbs into so that I can fish them out later without any fuss. My herbs of choice, are a combination of the hardier varieties like rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano and marjoram. I think they bring something special to the dish, so they stay!
To create Peposo Alla Fornacina, we simply fry the beef in a little oil to seal and create a little char on the pan (all flavour!). It's then as simple as adding a little garlic, the black pepper and herbs bag and then pouring over a whole bottle of red wine (preferably Chianti, but any dry red wine will be fine). As with a lot of wintery, warming stews, time is our friend – 3 hours to be precise. Low and slow to let the magic happen.
How to serve Peposo Alla Fornacina
There's no hard and fast rule about serving this stew. It will work well with nothing more than a loaf of crusty bread, or maybe mashed potatoes is more up your street? I love to serve mine with creamy, cheesy polenta - it's an amazing comforting dish to have when the weather takes a turn for the cold.
You could also shred up some of the meat and mix through some home-made pasta like Papardelle as an amazing pasta dish. Or if you're feeling super super fancy, using some of the meat to create stuffed ravioli following the same principles as my wonderful Osso Buco Ravioli. The choices are endless!
How ever you like to eat this dish, one thing is certain, you won't be disappointed. It's one of the simplest stews I know and one that makes an appearance whenever the weather permits, and sometimes in the heat of summer if I feel like it! It really is a simple, no-fuss dish to put together, and fills the air with its amazing savoury Tuscan essence.
More delicious Italian recipes to cook at home
If you like this recipe for Peposo Alla Fornacina, then you're sure to love one of my other Italian winter warmers.
In a small herb bag (or using cheesecloth/muslin), wrap the herbs and black peppercorns. Set aside.
Making the stew
Heat the oil in a large casserole pan until hot. Add some of the meat pieces and brown on all sides (around 3-4 minutes), remove and fry the remaining pieces.Add all the meat back to the pan and then add the garlic, and herb/pepper bag.Pour in the whole bottle of red wine, plus a little water to help cover the beef.Let the liquid come to a simmer then reduce the heat to very low, so that the sauce is very gently bubbling.Pop on a lid and cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.Remove the lid and cook for another 30 minutes to reduce the liquid. If after 30 minutes the liquid needs to be reduced more, just turn up the heat and reduce until the sauce is reduced enough to cling to the meat.Remove the herb/pepper bag and serve.
I like to serve mine with lashings of creamy, cheesy polenta. I'll also often serve with creamy mashed potato too and on occasion, nothing more than a loaf of crusty bread. You decide.
Peposo Alla Fornacina is a great dish to make in advance and gently reheat when you need. Make up to 2 days in advance and refrigerate for an enhanced flavour experience. If you can wait that long!