Veal Scaloppine with Mushrooms and Marsala

Veal Scaloppine with Mushrooms & Marsala

Sometimes two is better than one. Such was the case recently when I went searching for recipes for veal Marsala. It was one of my favorite dishes growing up, when, more often than not, I enjoyed it when we went to my family’s favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant in Brooklyn. Perfectly sautéed thin slices of veal and mushrooms napped in a buttery sauce laced with savory Marsala were served accompanied by a potato croquet and sautéed string beams. There was never any variation. It was always delicious.

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Polpettone di Vitello al Sedano or Veal Loaf with Celery

Polpettone di Vitello al Sedano

For the last month, our schedule has been impacted by my husband’s undergoing a 17.5-hour surgery for an hiatal hernia, hence the irregular postings to my blog as well as commenting on others. The surgery has also affected our daily menus with temporary restrictions on what my better half can safely consume.

So far, he’s been home for only a couple of days and, surprisingly, we’ve been able to have enjoyable dinners both nights. On his first night home we had skin-on bone-in chicken thighs over roasted with onions and red bell peppers. Last night, following the surgeon’s suggestion, I prepared a new recipe for a meat loaf from Hazan’s Marcella’s Italian Kitchen: Polpettone di Vitello al Sedano, or Veal Loaf with Celery. (It’s amazing how almost everything sounds better in Italian. Polpettone, by the way, is Italian for “big meatball.”)

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A Meatball by Any Other Name. . .

Spaghetti with Veal Dumplings

When I was growing up in the 50s and 60s, we really didn’t dine out that much. My family enjoyed such good food at home that the only reason for going to a restaurant was to give my mother and aunt a break from cooking. More often than not, the restaurants we chose were Italian. In fact, two of our favorites are still going strong in Brooklyn: Michael’s on Avenue R and Gargiulo’s in Coney Island. A third favorite, Patsy’s, continues to be popular in Manhattan. All three served then, as they still do, typical Neapolitan dishes that were similar to those we enjoyed at home but, at least in my aunt’s opinion, never quite as good.

In the early 50s, however, southern-Italian restaurants were being challenged by northern-Italian competitors. These new style establishments strove to distinguish themselves and, with some condescension, frowned on the heavy use of garlic, olive oil, peperoncino, and even dried pasta like spaghetti. Butter took the place of olive oil; cream sauces replaced tomato based ones; herbs like rosemary and thyme and spices like saffron and nutmeg lent more nuance than did basil or oregano. Southern dried pasta was replaced either by the fresh egg variety or by risottos, often finished with flair at tableside.

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Veal Stew with Tomatoes and Peas – Adapted for “Detoxing”


“Culinarily challenged” is how I felt this weekend, when a close friend coming to spend the 4th with us announced just before arrival that she was “food detoxing.” She explained that, during this period, she could not eat anything that had wheat, flour, sugar, any grain, most dairy products, including milk, cream, cheese, etc. The list seemed endless.

A roast chicken with sautéd spinach made up our first dinner. Breakfast the next day allowed for scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. When I asked her what she would enjoy for dinner, she said “something stewed.” Given what seemed like an endless list of prohibited foods, I thought of recipes with minimal ingredients, which led me to Marcella Hazan’s “Veal Stew with Tomatoes and Peas” from her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Veal, onions, peas, and tomatoes are the main players. The recipe also calls for some flour and butter in supporting roles, but I could easily work around those prohibited ingredients.

I’ve always enjoyed this stew, which calls for a much longer cooking of peas, fresh or frozen, than has become fashionable these days. But that lengthy time, at least an hour, extracts a lot of flavor from them, which integrates perfectly with the mild taste of the veal.

To make the dish my own, I also add some rehydrated dried porcini and some of their liquid when I add the peas. In addition, right before serving, I stir in a gremolata, made from minced garlic, lemon zest, and parsley, a condiment often used to garnish and enhance osso bucco.

Veal Stew with Tomatoes and Peas Adapted from Essentials of Italian Cooking

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds of boned veal shoulder, cut into 1.5 inch cubes
3 tablespoons chopped red onion
Fresh ground black pepper
1 28-ounce can of Italian crushed tomatoes
12 ounces frozen green peas, thawed
1 ounce dried porcini, rehydrated in warm water. When the mushrooms have rehydrated, in about 20 minutes, strain the water through a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth or through a coffee filter, reserving a few tablespoons of the filtered water to add to the stew. Chop the mushrooms roughly.

For the gremolata
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped fine
1 small garlic clove, minced
Simply mix all of the above in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

1. Put the olive oil in a non-reactive, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, preferably enameled cast iron, and heat the oil on high. When the oil is hot, place as much of the meat that will fit loosely in a single layer, and brown on all sides, turning until all sides are well browned. Transfer the meat to a plate and season with salt and pepper. You may have to repeat this step to finish cooking all the meat.

2. Turn the heat down to medium and add the chopped onions. Cook, scraping up any browned pieces of veal, until the onions become a pale gold. At this point, return the meat and any remaining juices to the pot. Add the chopped tomatoes and their juice. Bring to a bubble and then lower the heat to allow for a slow simmer. Cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour.

3. After the hour, add the peas, the chopped mushrooms, and 2 tablespoons of the filtered soaking water. Cover again and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for an additional 1 hour or 1.5 hours, until the veal is very fork tender. Before serving, taste and adjust for seasoning. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the gremolata.

Typically, I serve this dish with polenta or crusty Italian bread. However, given our guest’s restrictive diet, I opted for mashed potatoes, using organic chicken broth and extra-virgin olive oil for moisture.

Wine Pairing: Dolcetto, Sauvignon Blanc

Veal Stew Revisited


Recently, my friend Arthur Schwartz, an expert on southern Italian cooking, told me about an extremely simple tomato sauce made from just four ingredients: olive oil, garlic, concentrated tomato paste, and milk.

In a sauté pan, sauté a peeled and smashed garlic clove in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Remove the garlic just before it takes on any color. (Your nose should let you when.) Next, add two full tablespoons of imported Italian tomato paste. (The one that comes in a tube.) Stir for about two minutes or until the paste has dissolved into the oil. Finally, add a scant cup of milk, season with salt and pepper, and cook uncovered until the sauce has slightly thickened. That’s it. I knew I would eventually make this sauce.

Well last night, I remembered some veal stew with mushrooms that had been sitting in the fridge for a few days. (See my June 6th posting.) There wasn’t enough meat for two servings, so I thought I could stretch and even refashion the stew as a sauce for some fresh pappardelle.

The stew, however, even when we had it the first night, didn’t have a lot of sauce. And after several days in the fridge, there was even less. That’s when I thought of my friend’s tomato and milk sauce.

After preparing the sauce as described above, except for enriching it with just a touch of cream, I added the stew to the sauté pan and let it reheat partially covered for about 15 minutes. I then added about a half cup of frozen peas and cooked the sauce until the peas were warmed through.

While the stew, now a sauce, was still on the heat, with a spider strainer I transferred the cooked-a-minute-before-al-dente pappardelle to the pan, tossing the pasta to coat with the sauce. After less than a minute, I removed the pan from the heat. Over the pasta, I grated some Parmigiano-Reggiano, sprinkled some torn basil leaves, and gave it all a final toss.

Served accompanied by a Rosso Piceno from Italy’s Marche region, our revisited stew made a perfect Sunday night pasta.

In a comment to this post, please feel free to share any of your recipes for refashioning leftovers.

Veal Stew with Mushrooms


It was raining yesterday while I was searching for a recipe for dinner. Somehow the weather made me want a stew but one that wasn’t too heavy for spring. It wasn’t long before I settled on having veal and found a wonderful recipe for a veal stew with mushrooms in Hazan Family Favorites by Giuliano Hazan.

It’s amazing how just a few ingredients, veal, onion, mushrooms, sage, with a little butter, olive oil, wine, and cream, can come together to create such a delicious dish. Like his mother, Marcella, Giuliano uses techniques that are simple and straightforward.

However, this type of minimalist cooking requires using the best ingredients: milk-fed veal, fresh sage, young mushrooms, and drink-worthy wine.

This recipe makes for a stew with extremely tender meat and concentrated flavors. It yields enough for 4 servings.

Veal Stew with Mushrooms adapted from Hazan Family Favorites by Giuliano Hazan.

1.5 lbs of boneless veal trimmed and cut into 1.5 inch cubes
1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper
2-3 teaspoons fresh chopped sage
1/4 cup dry Pinot Grigio or other dry white wine
3/4 pound large white mushrooms, cleaned and quartered 1/2 inch thick
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1. Heat butter and olive oil over medium hight heat in a large dutch over, preferably enameled cast iron.

2. When the butter finishes sizzling, brown the veal on all sides, working in batches so that the meat will brown and not steam. Remove each batch to a platter and season with salt and pepper.

3. Add the onion to the pot and sauté stirring until it is soft for around 3 minutes, scraping up any of the browned bits from the veal on the bottom of the pot. The onion will take on a brown color from the pot.

4. Add the wine to the pot and let the alcohol evaporate for about 30 seconds.

5. Return the browned veal to the pan, along with any of the juices that have accumulated on the platter.

6. Reduce the heat to low and let the meat cook at a steady simmer with the lid of the pot slightly ajar for 1 hour. Stir every 15 minutes, adding a small amount of water if all the liquid in the pot evaporates. This can be tricky, The amount of liquid is minimal and much less than there is in a typical braise. Being quick with the stirring will reduce the evaporation.

7. After the hour’s cooking, add the mushrooms, season with a little more salt and pepper, and stir. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, at the same temperature and with the lid ajar for at least 30 minutes or until the veal is very tender.

Stew just before adding the cream

8. Uncover and raise the heat to medium-high and let most of the liquid in the pot evaporate. Then add the cream and cook until the cream thickly coats a wooden spoon.

9. Sprinkle with parsley and serve hot on warmed plates with steamed white rice.

Wine Pairing: Soave, Pinot Grigio, Chablis