Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Marsala Beef Stew Recipe


When purchasing meat for this recipe, look for chuck or stewing beef with a good amount of fat marbled throughout. Lean meat will result in a dry, tough stew. 

What is Marsala Wine?

Marsala is a wine produced in the region surrounding the Italian city of Marsala in Sicily. Marsala wine first received Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) status in 1969.

Marsala wine is frequently used in cooking, and is especially prevalent in Italian restaurants in the United States. A typical Marsala sauce, for example, involves reducing the wine almost to a syrup with onions or shallots, then adding mushrooms and herbs. One of the most popular Marsala recipes is chicken marsala, in which flour-coated pounded chicken breast halves are braised in a mixture of Marsala, butter, olive oil, mushrooms, and spices. Marsala is also used in some risotto recipes, and is used to produce rich Italian desserts such as zabaglione, tiramisu and shortcake.

Marsala Wine Characteristics and Types

Marsala is produced using the Grillo, Inzolia, and Catarratto white grape varietals, among others.

Marsala contains about 15-20% alcohol by volume. Different Marsala wines are classified according to their color, sweetness, and the duration of their aging. The three levels of sweetness are secco (with a maximum 40 grams of residual sugar per liter), semisecco' (41-100 g/l) and sweet (over 100 g/l). The color and aging classifications are as follows:

  • Oro has a golden color.
  • Ambra has an amber color. The coloring comes from the mosto cotto sweetener added to the wine.
  • Rubino has a ruby color, made from red grape varieties such as Perricone, Calabrese, Nero d'Avola and Nerello Mascalese.
  • Fine has minimal aging, typically less than a year.
  • Superiore is aged at least two years.
  • Superiore Riserva is aged at least four years.
  • Vergine e/o Soleras is aged at least five years.
  • Vergine e/o Soleras Stravecchio e Vergine e/o Soleras Riserva is aged at least ten years.

Marsala wine was traditionally served as an aperitif between the first and second courses of a meal. Contemporary diners will serve it chilled with Parmesan (stravecchio), Gorgonzola, Roquefort, and other spicy cheeses, with fruits or pastries, or at room temperature as a dessert wine. Marsala is sometimes discussed with another Sicilian wine, Passito di Pantelleria (Pantelleria Island's raisin wine).




2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks


2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 large carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into
1/2-inch-thick slices
3 garlic cloves, lightly smashed with skins intact
1 cup full-bodied red wine
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 fresh thyme sprigs
4 fresh marjoram sprigs


1. Put the meat in a large plastic or glass container and add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic. Add the red wine, oil, and herbs and toss to coat. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

2. Put the porcini in a bowl. Heat the Marsala until just boiling, then pour over the porcini. Cover and let soak for 45 minutes.

3. Remove the marinated meat and vegetables from the refrigerator and let drain in a sieve. Transfer the meat to a paper-towel-lined plate. Let drain for 5 minutes. Allow the vegetables to continue draining in the sieve. Discard the herbs.

4. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and sear the beef in one or two batches for 10 to 15 minutes, turning frequently, until browned all over and any excess liquid evaporates. Transfer the meat to a bowl and set aside. Add another 2 tablespoons of the oil, heat, and sear the second batch of meat. Transfer the additional meat to the bowl.


1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup sweet Marsala wine
5 to 6 tablespoons olive oil
One 4-ounce piece slab bacon, cut into strips about 1/4 inch wide, 1 inch long
1 cup green peas
2 cups full-bodied red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 to 4 cups beef stock
3 fresh thyme sprigs
3 fresh marjoram sprigs
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

5. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the Dutch oven and fry the bacon for 8 minutes or until brown and crisp. Drain the bacon on a paper-towel-lined plate before adding to the bowl of meat.

6. If needed, add the remaining oil to the Dutch oven and stir in the vegetable mixture. Cook for 10 minutes or until the onions are soft and just beginning to brown. Transfer the vegetable mixture to the bowl containing the meat. Return the Dutch oven to the heat.

7. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a rack in the lower third of the oven. Add the wine to the Dutch oven and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, use a slotted spoon to transfer the porcini to a food processor. Strain the remaining Marsala through a paper-towel-lined fine sieve to remove any sediment. Add the strained Marsala and tomato paste to the food processor and puree until smooth. Add the puree to the Dutch oven. Add the meat and vegetable mixture to the wine mixture. Add 3 cups of the beef stock and bring to a boil. Add the herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste.

8. Dampen a piece of crumpled parchment paper with water, open it, and place it directly on the stew. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for 3 hours or until the meat is very tender and almost falling apart. Add the final cup of stock when needed, if the stew is getting too thick. Discard the bay leaves. Taste and adjust the seasoning before serving.

To freeze: Allow the stew to cool completely to room temperature. Divide the stew into thirds and pack into three 2-quart plastic freezer bags. Seal, removing as much air as possible. Freeze flat until solid, about 2 hours. Stack in the freezer once solid.

To thaw: Place the bags on a plate and thaw in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours or overnight until the bag feels ice free.

To serve: Transfer the stew to a pot and add 1/2 cup water. Dampen a piece of crumpled parchment paper with water, open it, and place it directly on the stew. Cover with a lid and gently heat over low heat for 20 minutes or until the stew is heated through and gently bubbling, stirring at least twice. Do not let the stew bubble too vigorously, as the meat will fall apart.

Try this healthy and delicious recipe... Acarajé- Black-Eyed Pea Fritters

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