Drowned Veal

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Vitello Affogato – 

Drowned Veal finish 2 with script

Buon giorno!

I love the uncomplicated nature of Tuscan cooking. The Tuscans seems to have mastered the art of the simple rustic dish. DROWNED VEAL or VITELLO AFFOGATO is one such dish.  This recipe hails from the town of Arezzo. Using simple but precise and perfect ingredients, as described here, a splendid meal fit for a dinner party can be created in just a few minutes. The authentic preparation calls for veal, as the Italians just love to cook and create with this tender meat. However, you can just as easily use boned chicken breasts and have the same tender result that everyone will enjoy.

A little history:  There are many who credit the Tuscans, via Catherine de Medici, with teaching the French a thing or two in the kitchen. It is said that she introduced veal to the French among so many other culinary delights. But why did the French seem to surpass the Tuscans  – for a while – in terms of the entrée or meat course when so many famous dishes were born in this beautiful region of Tuscany? Actually, it had nothing to do with cooking – but had everything to do with diverted attention. In the Renaissance period, the Italians experienced a little attention deficit in regard to their fabulous dishes in favor of the “arts” – that is, art in general,  like sculpture and painting. Thus, we saw the rise of Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and others of note. With patrons like the Medici family devoting themselves and their resources to these artists, less emphasis was given to the great dishes of this region. You get the idea – the French took the proverbial ball and ran with it, while the Italians were busy creating other things – or so the story goes. In any case, the Tuscans had already laid the groundwork for some of the best and most famous dishes that we enjoy to this day – like the veal dish we study on this post.

OK! Let’s address the elephant in the room – the “drowned” reference. No we are not suggesting that you drown a calf for this recipe. However, we can probably attribute the name of this dish to the method of cooking it – low – slow – and swimming in a gorgeous sauce. Actually, if you hunt, you will find that Italians like to “drown” a number of things in the kitchen and give them the moniker “affogato”. (not necessarily a bad thing from my perspective!)


(Vitello Affogato)

Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: About 1 hour


3 Fresh Garlic Cloves

3 Tbsp. Olive oil

8 Veal Cutlets (Can substitute Chicken Breast) – pound thin

1/2 Cup Dry White Wine

1 Tbsp. Porcini Powder (optional)

1/2 lb. Sliced Wild Mushrooms – any combination

1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme leaves – chopped

1 Tbsp. Fresh Sage Leaves – chopped

1 14 oz. Can Chopped tomatoes

1 Tsp. Tomato Paste

Salt and Pepper to taste.


Lightly saute garlic cloves in oil for just a minute

Brown veal cutlets in this same oil for just a few minutes – just brown quickly on each side.

Drowned Veal 1

Add the wine and porcini powder if using it and cook at a strong simmer for another minute.

Drowned Veal 2

Add the mushrooms, thyme, sage, tomatoes and paste.

Drowned Veal 3

Stir well to combine – then cover and simmer on low for about 45 minutes. The sauce should thicken. Add a little water if too thick.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed

Remove the garlic cloves before serving.

Garnish with fresh sage leaves.

Drowned Veal finish with script

VITELLO AFFOGATO is an elegant and authentic Tuscan veal dish that is easy to make and can be ready in a matter of minutes. Serve it with mashed potatoes or polenta! Adhering to my “thing” for regional Italian concentration, I like a wine from the region of Tuscany with this dish – Rosso di Montalcino is my choice – not as big as its cousin, Brunello or as “oaky” –  but really lovely with the veal and tomatoes.


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Vitello e Peperoni Arrostiti con Fichi

Veal Peppers Figs_0061

Buon giorno!

Veal has always been a popular choice of meat in Italian dishes and a classic selection especially for many Northern Italian dishes. When I was growing up, veal was not reserved for special meals. Loretta and Attilio, my mother and father, served it in so many ways on any day of the week. Aside from the usual veal cutlets, they made stew with it, they stuffed veal chops, and breast of veal. As with other Italian families, we had a saute of veal and peppers often. There are as many recipes out there for veal and peppers as there are Italian families, I’m sure. Everyone seems to have their own special preparation handed down from the nonne (grandmothers). With our dish today, VEAL AND PEPPERS WITH FIGS, I have taken the classic sauteed version and made some changes.

The Standard: Usually, in most recipes, the veal cutlets or scallops are sauteed in olive oil with some peppers, sometimes with a little wine. Many like to add mushrooms.

Have Veal Issues? Then Cluck! This dish is also delicious using boned chicken breasts or chicken cutlets. The instructions are the same. Just make sure you slice the chicken breast pieces into thin scallops.

My Cheeky Addition: It is fig season now in most areas of the U.S. During the summer season, they arrive, for the most part, plump, juicy, sweet, and ready to eat. What could be better than making them part of the main event? Figs are really lovely with veal. They saute quickly and keep their flavor when cooked. In this case, they offer just a touch of sweetness that marries well with the savory quality of this recipe and smokiness of the roasted peppers.

My Peppery Preference: As with most vegetables, when possible, I always like to roast peppers. There is so much more flavor in a roasted “anything”! Peppers are no different and almost beg to be roasted. It is so easy to do this that it seems silly not to want to add this extra step. The peppers will also need very little cooking in the dish, as they are already tender from roasting. You simply brush your peppers with olive oil and pop them whole under the broiler, turning occasionally, for the “triple B” treatment: bruise, blacken, and blister. Then place them in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for 15 minutes to steam the skins off. Works like a charm! You can see the step by step easy process for roasting peppers by visiting a previous post: Sovana and the Mystery Dish. Since then , a subscriber, Stephanie, suggested cutting the peppers first and roasting them in pieces. This is a great suggestion which works very well.

How to serve: Even though this is definitely a meat dish and can be considered an entrée complete in itself, Veal and Peppers with Figs is actually a light choice for any time of day . Think of it as the “guy” who shows up for lunch in khakis, but put a tie on him, and he’s good for dinner! The “guy” cleans up nicely. This dish is definitely light enough for a lunch on the patio. However, add a green salad, a rustic bread like Focaccia, and a beautiful wine, a balmy evening, and you have yourself one fine dinner on the good china.

I’m hungry!

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Prep: about 40 minutes

Cook: about 20 minutes


About 8 Veal scallops or cutlets (boned chicken breasts may be substituted)

1/3 c. Flour seasoned with salt and pepper for dredging

4 Peppers Roasted, skins removed (See post:Sovana and the Mystery Dish for instructions on roasting) I like one of each color: red, yellow, orange, green.

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1/8 lb Pancetta – chopped

3 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

1 c. White Wine  (substitute with water or broth if you do not choose to use wine)

1/4 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

1 c. chicken broth

6-8 Fresh Figs – Sliced

2 Tbsp. Butter

2 tsp. fresh Lemon Zest

1/3 c. Chopped Fresh Parsley (preferably Italian Flat Leaf)

1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves ( I like to use Lemon Thyme from my garden)

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Roast and skin peppers, cut in pieces, set aside. Can be done a day or 2 ahead if desired.

Pound veal scallops with mallet to make thin. Also use the sharp end of the mallet to tenderize.

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Dredge scallops in flour seasoned with salt and pepper and set aside.

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Pour olive oil in pan – add chopped pancetta and cook until crisp. Remove pancetta and reserve.

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Brown veal scallops in same oil on both sides – just a few minutes each side.( You can add another Tbsp. of oil if you think it is needed.) The scallops will brown quickly. Remove from pan.

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Add garlic to the same oil and saute a couple of minutes.

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Pour in white wine and add red pepper flakes. Cook a couple of minutes on medium high scraping up the bits on the bottom of the pan.

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Then pour in the chicken broth – again stirring up any bits left on the pan bottom.

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Add veal scallops back to pan –  reduce heat, cover and cook the veal for about 10 minutes or until tender. At any point, you can add a little more broth if sauce gets too thick.

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Add the roasted peppers.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine.

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Add the figs.

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Add the butter – stir in.

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Immediately: add the Lemon Zest.

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Follow with the pancetta, parsley, and thyme.

Stick a fork in it – your VEAL AND PEPPERS WITH FIGS is done!


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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

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