Carbonade di Valle D’Aosta

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A Beefy Dish of a Different Kind

Buon giorno!

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High in the northwest portion of Italy, nestled in the Alps, lies a tiny region called Valle D’Aosta – so tiny that it has no provincial divisions. This is the prime skiing area of Italy boasting of the slopes of Monte Bianco, Monte Rosa, and even the Matterhorn. Because of its shared borders with France and Switzerland, the cuisine of the region has been greatly influenced by both of these countries. One of the most lauded dishes of this region is the Carbonade di Valle D’Aosta.

What is it? If forced to state the essence of this dish in few words, it would be an impossibility. It’s flavors are just that complex. However, to give you a frame of reference hopefully without inciting an international incident, I would liken it to a pot roast. Originally, it was made with salt cured beef. However, today, it is more commonly prepared with a less expensive cut of beef  – not salt cured – and then cooked for hours, bathed in wine and spices that arouse your senses to the fullest. It is SOOOOO much more than pot roast.

Carbonade or Carbonnade: The French claim a dish called Carbonnade with two “n’s”. It is usually made with beer or ale. The Italian version “Carbonade” is made with  – but of course – vino rosso – red wine! Naturally I am partial to the Italian version – but really it is two different dishes in the end. The name “Carbonade” comes from Carbone which means coal – which relates to the dark color of the gravy.

Simplicity! It sounds all complicated – aromas, wine, spices, 3 hours of cooking. Actually, it is a one pot wonder and can be put together quite easily and left to simmer in its own time. You can definitely even make this in a slow cooker. It is a wonderful dish for the colder weather. It is hearty, rustic, robust,and satisfying as you might imagine a dish born high in the Alps. Imagine dining upon it beside a roaring fire with an accompanying bottle of red.

Versatility: This dish can be served a couple of different ways. First – you can use your chuck roast – which is the cut of beef I recommend – whole or cut in pieces as you would for stew. I have shown the meat used both ways in photos. This recipe is really delicious served over polenta or over pappardelle pasta. (Pappardelle is the wide pasta noodle). You could even serve it over garlic mashed potatoes.

As you might guess – I have added my own suggestion of spices for this dish which, I think, make it interesting and even more flavorful.

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Serves: 6

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 3 1/2 hours


2 1/2 lb chuck roast in one piece or cut in pieces as in stew

Flour for dredging

4 Tbsp. Butter

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

3 Onions – very coarsely chopped or sliced

3 cloves garlic –chopped

2 Bay Leaves

1 large piece of fresh Orange Peel

4 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme

1 Cinnamon Stick

2 Whole Cloves

2 Tsp. Brown Sugar

1/4 Tsp freshly grated nutmeg

2 c. Red Wine – dry

1/2 c. Beef stock

8 oz. assorted wild mushrooms

Salt and Pepper to taste

3 Tbsp. Butter

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Whether you use the chuck roast in one whole piece or cut up into smaller pieces, pat the beef dry and dredge it in the flour.

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Brown the beef in the oil and butter – add a little more if the pan gets dry.

Remove beef from the pan after browning and set aside.

In the same pan, cook the onion and garlic about 3 minutes on medium high.

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Place the beef back in the pan with the onion.

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Add the the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cloves, sugar, thyme, nutmeg, and orange peel.

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Pour the wine and stock into the pan and add salt and pepper to taste. (At this point, if you prefer to use a slow cooker, you can do so – cooking on low setting for about 8 hours)

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Simmer covered for about 3 hours until the meat is tender. Add the wild mushrooms after about 2 hours into the cooking.

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When finished, remove the bay leaves and the thyme sprigs and discard them. It is important to remove the bay leaves as they can cause choking. As always, test for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Make sure to add enough salt to bring out the flavors.

If you want a thicker sauce, you can always use the immersion blender – but in my opinion, it is nicer and more interesting with the onions and mushrooms left as they are.

Stir in the butter, and let it melt into the sauce.

To serve the Carbonade di Valle d’Aosta: If you opted to cook the roast as a whole, remove it before serving and slice. As stated in the text portion above the recipe, you can serve this in different ways. It is lovely over polenta, garlic mashed potatoes, or pappardelle noodles.

For the wine, I would opt for an amazing full bodied red – perhaps that Barbaresco or Brunello di Montalcino you have been saving—or even that – can I say it? Barolo! Now is the time…


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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

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