Pašticada is a stewed beef dish cooked in a special sweet and sour sauce that is very popular in Croatia. It is often called Dalmatinska pašticada because it originates in the Dalmatia region (the same place Dalmatian dogs are from).
Traditional Dalmatian pašticada is usually served with gnocchi (njoki) or homemade pasta. In Dalmatia, it is a meal for important feasts, including weddings.
It requires long and meticulous preparation: first, the meat is pierced and stuffed with garlic, cloves and bacon, then salted and marinated in vinegar overnight. The marinated beef is then roasted and cooked with roasted bacon, onions, parsley root, nutmeg, prunes, tomato paste, water and prošek wine for up to five hours, depending on meat.
The dish is quite popular throughout the southern coast of Croatia but there isn’t one way to make an authentic pašticada. Every family from Split to Dubrovnik will have its own version of this beef stew.
One recipe from Dubrovnik was found and actually dates from the fifteenth century. The origins of pašticada are not entirely known but one can assume that it is related to variants from Greece, eastern Italy and even southern France. It is actually quite similar to the French Daube Provençale, although it is not clear whether they share a common origin.
One of the other key ingredients of the recipe is wine. The original recipe (or at least one of the most famous) calls for a dessert wine named Prošek (which has nothing to do with Italian Prosecco, which is a dry sparkling white wine).
Citizens, I hew closely to tradition with my version of this recipe: I do add an optional touch of mustard, and have included some fresh herbs to accent the flavor even further, as well as a touch of lard for richness.
Battle on – The Generalissimo
3 to 4 lb of beef round or other cut
5 garlic cloves, sliced
4 oz bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
4 cups wine vinegar (or more)
½ cup olive oil
1 tbsp lard
1 cup vegetable or beef broth
3 onions, quartered
2 carrots, peeled and cut
1 celery root, peeled and quartered
1 parsley root (aka petrushka), peeled and quartered
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
½ cup prosek or other sweet dessert wine
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup red dry wine
1 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
3 lemon slices
2 tablespoons mustard (optional)
Fresh Rosemary and Thyme, chopped
1 lb gnocchi
½ bunch parsley, chopped
Pierce the meat with a sharp pointed knife and insert pieces of garlic, bacon and cloves in it.
Place the beef in a large dish. Cover with vinegar and leave it overnight in the refrigerator.
The next day, remove the meat from the vinegar.
Remove the bacon and garlic and save them.
Put meat in Dutch oven or deep pot. Dust meat with flour, and then add olive oil and lard.
Cook on medium-high heat. Remove the meat when it takes on color from all sides after about 8 to 10 minutes.
Fry the onion, garlic and bacon in the same oil for a few minutes.
Return the meat to the pot, add broth and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the tomato paste diluted in sweet wine, then add the red wine with sugar and cook covered on low heat for 3 hours or until the meat is tender.
Halfway through cooking, add the mustard, bay leaf, nutmeg, lemon slices and prunes.
When the meat is tender, remove it to a plate and cut into thick slices.
Purée the vegetables and sauce left in the pot with a hand blender.
Serve with potato gnocchi and garnish with parsley, rosemary, thyme and grated Parmesan cheese.