Impruneta’s Peposo: An Illustrated Recipe

Chef Cristoforo's Peposo

Chef Cristoforo’s Peposo

Peposo is the signature stew of Impruneta, a town south of Florence renowned for its terracotta. Indeed, it was made by the tileworkers, who would slip a stewpot into the kiln as it slowly cooled after the firing, and simmer their dinner for hours.

As you might expect, the recipe goes a long way back — the Imprunetani began making terracotta long before Brunelleschi came looking for roof tiles for Florence’s Cathedral in the 1400s — and though there are many published versions, purists are quick to point out that true Peposo is made without olive oil, and consequently without the soffritto (a mixture of sautéed herbs) one generally encounters in Italian stews.

Tomato? “Before the discovery of the Americas Peposo was made without,” Chef Cristoforo told me during a cooking demonstration held in Impruneta’s Albergo Ristorante Bellavista. Some Imprunetani do use tomato now, while others omit it; the “official” recipe, which was codified after Chef Cristoforo did his demonstration, omits it.

Wine? Yes, but it’s added at the end.

The Albergo Ristorante Bellavista’s Peposo won the first two Impruneta Restaurant Peposo Cookoffs held. To make their recipe for 10-12 you’ll need:

  • 4 1/2 pounds (2 k) stew beef, including some gristle
  • The cloves from a head of garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) or more, to taste, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 quart (1 liter) thick tomato sauce
  • Coarse sea salt to taste
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) Chianti or similar dry red wine
Making Modern Peposo: Garlic...

Making Modern Peposo: Garlic…

Begin by scattering the cloves of garlic over the bottom of a large stewpot. Chef Cristoforo uses metal, but if you have a terracotta pot it would be nice here.

Making Modern Peposo: Chop The Meat

Making Modern Peposo: Chop The Meat

Chop the meat into fairly large pieces, an inch or more (2.5 cm) across, and add them to the pot. You can remove gristle if you want, but Chef Cristoforo didn’t, and it does contribute to the texture of the stew.

Note that there is no oil in the pot.

Making Modern Peposo: An Abundance of Pepper...

Making Modern Peposo: An Abundance of Pepper…

Next, add the pepper. Chef Cristoforo went by eye, and I’d say he added a bit more than a half cup of ground pepper.

This brings up a point: If you make Peposo with ground black pepper it will pack a considerable fiery zing. If you instead use whole peppercorns (increase the volume by about a third to compensate for the air between the peppercorns) the Peposo will be more delicate, with rich peppery aromas, but pack less punch. The choice is up to you, and you could also opt for a mixture of ground pepper and peppercorns.

Making Modern Peposo: And then Add Salt

Making Modern Peposo: And then Add Salt

The pepper is followed by a generous dusting of salt.

Making Modern Peposo: Followed by Tomato

Making Modern Peposo: Followed by Tomato

Next, add the tomato sauce, which should be fairly thick. Again, Chef Cristoforo went by eye, and I’d say he added about a quart.

Stir…

Making Modern Peposo: Simmer!

Making Modern Peposo: Simmer!

And put the pot on the stove, over a medium flame. As soon as the pot begins to bubble, cover it, turn the heat down, and simmer gently for 3-4 hours.

When the Peposo has simmered, turn the heat up and stir in a bottle of dry red wine. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20-25 minutes, and the stew is done.

Making Modern Peposo: A New Pot in Front, and Ready To Serve Behind

Making Modern Peposo: A New Pot in Front, and Ready To Serve Behind

Here you see the pot Chef Cristoforo had just set on the stove, and, behind it, a larger pot (prepared in the morning) for us to taste. And this brings up an important point:

Peposo improves with time, so if you can, make it the day ahead and reheat it come serving time.

What to serve it with? The traditional Tuscan accompaniments are boiled cannellini, white beans boiled with a clove of garlic, two peppercorns, a couple of leaves of sage, and a pinch of salt (added near the end), and seasoned at table with a little olive oil, or spinaci rifatti, spinach sautéed with olive oil and garlic. Though it isn’t strictly Tuscan, I think Peposo also goes quite well with polenta.

What to drink with peposo? At the demonstration we tasted several wines, including a full bodied white that was completely overwhelmed. The best bet, I think, is a full bodied, unoaked fruit-driven red wine, along the lines of a Chianti D’Annata, a Dolcetto, or perhaps a Valpolicella. Another option is a rich beer of the kind made by a microbrewery (as opposed to an industrial outfit). I’d suggest an India Pale Ale, or, if you want something more bracing, a Weissbier.

Buon Appetito!
Kyle Phillips

 

More Peposo & Other Zesty Things

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Categories: Beef and Veal Stews, Illustrated Recipes And More, Tuscan Meat Recipes

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.

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  1. Peposo (Peppery Tuscan Beef Stew) | Memorie di Angelina - March 3, 2013

    […] Impruneta’s Peposo, An Illustrated Recipe […]

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