On our recent trip to Montalcino, Joey and I cooked up a Florentine stew called Peposo, which has a long history dating back to when Brunelleschi constructed his magnificent dome in the 1400s. Workers made a simple lunch of stew meat, red wine and peppercorns which was tucked into a clay pot and left to cook for hours at the mouth of the kilns where the bricks were being made. For this super simple yet delectable stew, you literally toss everything into a pot and let it simmer slowly over a few hours until the meat and wine and peppercorns melds into this heavenly mixture. (the aromas will drape your kitchen in deliciousness while this is simmering 😋). Peposo checks all the holiday-craziness boxes – super simple, delicious, very little prep time!
Our late October trip to Tuscany was a wonderful mix of burning red sunsets over the island of Giglio and winter blue sunrises over Montalcino, of quiet conversations by the fire and midnight passeggiatas over cobblestones, of smiles from friends just made and the comfort and long-overdue hugs of beautiful familiar friends.❤️
Following our week in Monte Argentario, we headed to my apartment in Montalcino. The weather the first part of our trip had been unseasonably warm but as we moved inland to the hills of Tuscany, the warm sun was replaced with the cool, crisp air of the Val d’Orcia. Fall blossomed around us. In our short days there, the spectacular fall colors turned from light green to beautiful golds and crimson as the leaves started to tuck in for a winter’s rest.
With barely a drop of rain during our stay, we spent mornings on passegiatas outside the walls and lunches outside in the sunshine. Our dear cousin’s son, Francesco and his girlfriend came to visit from Le Marche where we spent a long afternoon enjoying an always amazing meal from our beautiful friends at Locanda Demetra ❤️. The beautiful afternoon faded to a passing shower that presented us with a sweet rainbow to cap an absolutely perfect afternoon.
Chilly eves were spent cooking at the apartment or in the comfort of our favorite local spots such as at Luciano’s Grappolo Blu where the unhurried pace and warm interior (and his always amazing pinci all’aglione 😋) had us all tucked around a table late into the eve.
Well …back to the stew…for our version, we browned the stew meat first to deepen the flavor but you can just as easily skip this step. Joey whipped up some creamy polenta. (The peposo is also quite wonderful served with creamy mashed potatoes or simply with just some toasted bread.) I have also posted a previous version of this recipe served with poached pears. Which ever way you choose to serve it, be sure to bookmark this link – you will want to keep this low stress, super simple stew on repeat to soothe any holiday blues!
Until next time, beautiful Montalcino – alla prossima! ❤️
Michele (and Joey too!) ✨
This wonderfully simple Tuscan stew can be made a day ahead of time, cooled and stored in the fridge. It will allow you to easily remove the fat that has solidified on the top. If you do not feel like making polenta, this is also wonderful with creamy mashed potatoes.
For the peposo:
- 3 pounds boneless beef stew meat (i.e., chuck, round)
- Olive oil
- 1 bottle of strong Tuscan dry wine (i.e. Chianti, Sangiovese)
- 10 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 4 teaspoons black peppercorns
- Kosher salt
For the polenta:
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup polenta (there are a lot of ground corn products available so look for one labeled “polenta”)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (or to taste)
- 2 tablespoons butter
Make the peposo:
- If not already done so, dice the stew meat into 1-2 inch cubes. Sprinkle with salt.
- In a heavy bottom deep pan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Working in batches as not to crowd, deeply brown the stew meat all over. More oil should release from the meat but add more if needed.
- Remove the batches to a bowl so the juices can collect.
- In the same pot over medium heat, add the browned meat back in. Lightly crush the peppercorns. Add in the wine, garlic, the peppercorns and 1 teaspoon salt. If the wine does not cover the meat, add a bit water to the wine to cover.
- Bring the stew to a boil and then reduce to simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 hours until the meat is tender and falling apart.
- Taste and adjust salt if needed.
Make the polenta:
Start the polenta about 30-40 minutes ahead when you plan to serve the stew.
- Bring 4 cups of water and salt to a boil over medium heat. Add in the polenta in a steady stream, stirring constantly.
- Lower the heat to medium-low and continue to stir until occasionally. Adjust the heat so you have big bubbles coming to the surface every 10-30 seconds. It will take about 30 minutes for the mixture to thicken and become creamy. If the mixture becomes to dry, add more hot water.
- When it thickens to your taste, remove the polenta from the heat and stir in the cheese and butter.
- Spoon polenta into a serving bowl and top with Peposo stew. (Place any unused polenta in a small glass dish and chill to firm up. Fry pieces in a plan with a little olive oil for a quick snack.)