What’s the heartiest dish you know how to make? Chances are, this is heartier.
Picture it: a pestata (or paste) is made with lots of garlic, sage, rosemary and olive oil. That paste is used to flavor sliced red potatoes and cubed beef shoulder which get layered in a giant casserole with cabbage. Then the remaining pestata is mixed with white wine, poured over the mix, which has been dotted with butter. Into a hot oven it goes for 2 1/2 hours, after which the whole thing is topped with grated Fontina cheese and returned to the oven for it to bubble and brown. I told you this was hearty.
What I love so much about this dish, now that I’ve made it, isn’t so much that it’s hearty but that it’s so flavorful. The garlic and herbs lend so much pizzazz to everything; and the white wine that gets poured over it all offers up an acidic zing.
The meat, which is naturally fatty, breaks down slowly so that 2 1/2 hours later it’s fork tender. And the cabbage absorbs all the residual flavors as it wilts and browns and reinvents itself as something far more enticing than you’d expect from the word “cabbage.”
There’s so much packed into this casserole, in fact, you’re not sure you can even squash it all down before covering it with foil and roasting. You can, just press hard. Plus: it all shrinks up in the oven.
Even before you add the Fontina cheese, it looks like something you want to eat. But with the Fontina cheese?
It’s like lasagna and pot roast all rolled into one unforgettable dish. The best part: this really feeds a crowd so you can invite over a whole gang and still have plenty leftover. It’s that kind of dish for that kind of night. Everyone leaves very full and very happy.
To quote Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In: Socca to me.
Recipe: Socca (An Italian Beef, Cabbage & Potato Casserole)
Summary: From Lidia Bastianich’s Lidia Cooks From The Heart of Italy
- About a dozen large sage leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves, stripped from the branch
- 8 plump garlic cloves, peeled
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 pounds red potatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
- A 4-pound boneless beef shoulder roast (preferably “top blade” or “top chuck shoulder” roast)
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) soft butter
- 1 head Savoy cabbage, about 2 1/2 pounds, cored and sliced into 1/2-inch shreds
- 2 cups white wine
- 1 pound Fontina cheese from Valle d’Aosta (or Italian Fontal)
- Heat the oven to 425. Use a food processor to mince the sage, rosemary, garlic, 1/4 cup of the olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a fine-textured pestata. (Note: I didn’t think this would work in my food processor, because mine’s so large I didn’t think it’d blend up; so I minced by hand then used a hand blender in a bowl to take it further. Worked pretty well. You could also try a mortar and pestle.)
- Put the potato slices in a large bowl; sprinkle on top 1 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of the pestata. Toss well to coat.
- With a sharp knife, slice the beef across the grain into 3/4 inch thick slices (I cut mine into large cubes). As you did with the potatoes, put the meat slices in a bowl and toss them with seasonings until well coated, using 1 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 2 tablespoons of the pestata. (Note: I used a little more salt than this, based on visual cues. I wanted the beef to get a good dose of salt.)
- Brush a roasting pan or large baking dish (mine was 9 X 13 glass) with the remaining olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter. Arrange half of the potato slices in a single layer on the pan bottom, spread half the cabbage shreds evenly over the potatoes, and season with 1 teaspoon salt. Distribute all the beef slices, in a single layer, over the cabbage. (The pan should be about half full; press down on the beef if it looks like you need more room.)
- Dot the top of the beef with small mounds of butter, using another 3 tablespoons in all. Lay the remaining potato slices on top of the beef slices, spread the rest of the cabbage evenly over the slices, and season with the remaining teaspoon of salt. Stir all of the remaining pestata into the white wine and pour the wine all over the cabbage shreds. Finally, dot the top with the rest of the butter.
- Tent the baking dish with a sheet of aluminum foil, arching it above the food and pressing it against the sides of the pan. (I didn’t understand what this meant, so I just sealed it up with aluminum foil and it worked fine.) Set the dish in the oven and bake about 2 1/2 hours, until the meat and vegetables are easily pierced with a knife and almost all of the liquid has been absorbed.
- Remove the foil and sprinkle the shredded fontina over the top of the potatoes and cabbage (which will have sunk down in the pan). Bake another 15 to 20 minutes until the fontina has melted, bubbled, and browned into a crusty topping.
- Let the casserole rest for 10 minutes. Serve family-style, spooned onto dinner plates.
Preparation time: 30 minute(s)
Cooking time: 2 hour(s) 50 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8
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