Beef Casserole with Red Wine and Cloves

This casserole can be served in slices, reheated in the sauce, or the sauce can be used as a pasta sauce.

Serves 6-8

The Italian name for this dish comes from its use of cloves known as chiodi di garofano, which translates as ‘nails of carnation’, and carnations can also be known as ‘clove pinks’, so linguistically there is some link there! Cloves were found burnt into the floor of a kitchen dated 1700 BC in Syria, and Roman writer, Pliny the Elder, wrote about them in the 1st century AD, so they have been in use in Italy for centuries.

Pork fat is cut and chopped with the herbs to make a herb paste; this is a typical old Italian way to start a sauce that results in a wonderful depth of flavour. Often butchers will give (or sell you cheaply) pieces of leftover pork fat, such as the bath chaps (the cheeks), which can be rendered down and used in place of oil or butter. It is very useful in Roman dishes.

This casserole can be served in slices, reheated in the sauce, or the sauce can be used as a pasta sauce. Our butchers, Aubrey Allen, recommended using a leg of mutton or lean beef rump, as both are lean but can withstand the long cooking time. In Rome they use a cut called girello from the back of the thigh, which is similar to our topside.

  • 1.5 kg (3 lb 5 oz) beef (thick flank, topside or leg of mutton cut)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 50 g (2 oz) pork fat or fatty streaky unsmoked bacon, cut into 1 cm (1/2 in) strips
  • 50 g (2 oz) salted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 300 ml (10 fl oz) red wine
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée (paste)
  • 200 ml (7 fl oz) hot water

For the herb paste

  • 50 g (2 oz) pork fat or unsmoked fatty streaky bacon
  • 2 cloves, crushed in a pestle and mortar
  • 1 fat garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried marjoram or oregano
  • 2 teaspoons thyme leaves

METHOD: Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F/Gas 5). First make the herb paste: put the pork fat on to a chopping board with the rest of the herb paste ingredients and chop together until you have formed a thick herby paste. Make around 15 small incisions in the meat, around 3 cm (1 in) deep, with a sharp knife and use your finger to push in about 1 teaspoon of the paste into each hole until it is all used up. Roll the meat into a neat shape and tie securely with string. Season with salt and pepper.

“RomeThis is a recipe from Rome: Centuries in an Italian Kitchen by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi. Buy now