Brasato means braised beef. The best part about the recipe “Brasato al Vino Nobile di Montepulciano” is that it is an easy and slow cooker recipe.
This meat dish is delicious on a cold winter evening. Springtime is not really the season for a beef stew. But when it’s cold and rainy outside it is the perfect food to warm you up a bit!
There are many recipes of braised beef, but when preparing an outstanding brasato it is important to have high quality meat and good wine.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG
What kind of wine would you recommend to use in beef stew?
I prefer a full bodied, robust red wine such as the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG.
This wine gives a very special aroma to the meat.
For this delicious recipe I use the perfect Chianina beef. This meat is expensive, but it is a very healthy meat and low in cholesterol.
Chianina is probably the oldest breed of cattle in Italy. Did you know that? This animal is also called the giant white cow “gigante bianco”.
Chianina farm Fierli
The homeland of the white Chianina cow is the Valdichiana area. The Fierli family is a four generations farm in Foiano della Chiana. A small town located between Cortona and Montepulciano. Today the family keeps 200 Chianina cows on 100 hectares of agriculture land.
Cecilia is member of the family Fierli. She came up with the rich, warm stew recipe “il brasato al Vino Nobile di Montepulciano”. Guanciale di Chianina cheek in Vino Nobile wine.
The cheek is a hard working muscle that needs to be cooked very slow. It takes hours before the meat is tender, but it is worth waiting for!
Besides guanciale di Chianina and Vino Nobile wine other necessary ingredients for this dish are olive oil, soffritto, salt and pepper.
A soffritto is the Italian cooking base for sauces, soups, stews and many more. It is an aromatic mix of onion, carrots and celery.
Besides the basic ingredients I add bay leaves, juniper berries, cloves and fresh rosemary. Really recommended!
It’s important to bring the meat out of the fridge a few hours before cooking. The meat must come up to room temperature.
In this recipe the marination step is not necessary.
Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 3 hours at least Serves: 2 people
450 gram of bovine cheek (Chianina) > 1/2 liter of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wine
2 tablespoons extra-vergin olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
1 stick celery finely chopped
1 carrot finely chopped
1 bay leaf
3 juniper berries
salt, pepper, fresh rosemary
What else do you need
How to cook
Don’t remove the fat before cooking, that gives the meat a unique flavor and texture.
Clean, wash and chop the onions, carrots and celery.
Heat the stew pot over medium-high heat. Brown the soffritto in hot olive oil. Stirring frequently. The soffritto should be cooked until dorata (golden brown).
Add the meat to the pan and season it with salt and pepper.
Pour in the wine and bring it to boil. Reduce the heat, add the bay leaves, rosemary, cloves and juniper berries.
Cover the pot and turn the meat occasionally.
Leave the meat at a low and slow temperature.
The wine will evaporate. Let the wine reduce a bit and add more wine or other liquids when necessary.
After a few hours, when the meat is tender, remove it to a carving board. Slice the meat. Before serving make sure you remove the woody herbs stems and any bay leaves.
Arrange the meat on a serving plate and pour the wine sauce on top.
What to serve with beef stew
Serve warm with mashed potatoes, polenta or roasted potatoes with rosemary.. my favorite contorno!
A delicious antipasto
Antipasto misto di Cinta Senese: coppa, capocollo and speck.
Cinta Senese is an ancient Tuscan black pig with a white belt. They live free and they have a long and good life. The cinta senese meat has a DOP classification. It is top quality meat.
The main course pairs with the high tannic red wine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG.
Red wine and fatty or high-protein foods is a perfect wine and food pairing.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG wine is an outstanding wine in the Tuscany region, available on my wine webshop.
Watch this video recipe to see how to cook il Brasato al Vino Nobile di Montepulciano!
Pici is a local pasta specialty from the province of Siena. It is a thick hand rolled pasta made from flour and water. Pici Toscani are similar to fat spaghetti.
The local people from Montepulciano “i poliziani” eat pici quite often. Since I moved here, I only eat pici. This pasta is amazing. So delicious!
Normally I buy fresh pici in the supermarket. It is a 300 gram packet, just enough for two meals. They are fresh and can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
Obviously dried pici are available as well in grocery stores, but I prefer the fresh homemade variety!
Le vongole veraci
I don’t live near the beach, but I eat fish regularly. Fish is one of my favorite dishes.
There are different types of clams. They live in the Mediterranean and Adriatic sea. On the Italian coast you find a wide range of good restaurants where they serve the best fish and fresh seafood.
In Italy we eat plenty of fish. I personally always prefer the clams “vongole veraci” for my pasta. This shellfish is bigger and they give an essential “sea” taste to the primo piatto.
A primo piatto can be a risotto or a pasta dish.
Pici alle vongole is my personal recipe. I enjoy to experiment with different flavors and herbs. For the best pasta recipes I often ask locals, or I check out various recipe websites. Mostly I use the website of Giallo Zafferano.
I always put emotion and love in a dish, cooking is one of my greatest hobby. Besides wine tasting and running of course.
There are rules about Italian food that Italian follow and I respect that. Also the wine is important because the meal I prepare must pair with the wine I choose. It’s important to have a balance between the food and the wine.
I pici alle vongole
Recipe for 1 persoon
1 clove garlic Remove the skin, place the flat side of the knife over it and press down.
1 fresh red chilly Chop the chilly into small pieces. How many chilly pieces you want to use for your pasta depends on how spicy you prefer to eat.
150 gram pasta i pici
100 ml white wine Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC
300 gram vongole veraci Normally 250 gram is enough, but if you love vongole, the more the better.
half a bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley chop the parsley
extra vergine olive oil two table spoons of olio Italiano
Bring the water to boil in a pot.
Scrub the clams clean. They are unlikely to have sand in them. But to be sure that they are all clean and healthy I recommend to clean them.
Put two table spoons of olive oil into the hot saucepan. Add the garlic and some slices of chilly. Swirl a few seconds and make sure that the garlic doesn’t get too brown.
Pour in the white wine and bring it to boil. Then add the clams and increase heat to high. Cover and cook the clams until they are open. This will take at least 6 minutes.
After the water for the pasta has started to boil I add some salt. Cook the pici al dente. The recommended cooking time on the pasta package is 10-12 minutes. I always prefer having the pasta al dente.
Meanwhile keep on stirring with a spatula. Add the pici to the pan with clams, cook over high heat, tossing constantly, until pasta is al dente and has soaked up some of the sauce.
Remove the garlic, add the parsley and some pasta water if the sauce seems dry.
Serve your pici alle vongole directly while its hot.
PS: to pour the wine in the pan before the vongole is a recommendation from a fish market vendor in Montepulciano.
Can I store the pici alle vongole in the refrigerator?
You can store the pici alle vongole for maximum one day in the refrigerator, but it’s not recommended. Le vongole should be eaten fresh and immediately with the pasta.
During the Easter holidays the whole of Italy was classified “red” from 3 – 5 April. In a red zone it is prohibited to leave your hometown except for work and health reasons.
Over the Easter period we were allowed to visit friends and families in their homes with a maximum of two visitors at a time.
Tuscany will remain under the heaviest restrictions until April 20, as I read in a newspaper. The infections are not declining.
Last Saturday I went for a bike ride and pizza dinner with my friends. It’s been weeks since we met. We’re not seeing each other often these days because we do not live in the same municipality. I live in Montepulciano. My friends have a house in Montallese and in Chiusi. Two towns in Tuscany.
Pizza is a social food. A food for family and friends. I never make a frozen pizza at home. For me a pizza is to be eaten at a pizzeria. It must be eaten immediately after it comes out of pizza oven and must be made by an expert!
Our friend in Montallese has recently installed a wood fired pizza oven in his garage. He prepared for us a variety of pizzas. Gianfranco is an Italian pizza chef!
I had a great dinner and I really enjoyed the pizzas. It has been a long time since I have had a so good pizza. Too long…
Pizza with spinach
Pizza with truffle
Pizza with anchovies
Pizza with wurstel
The nationwide curfew from 10 PM till 5 AM is still active. In Italy we usually eat late, around 8 – 9 PM. With the current rules we eat a little earlier.
Online wine tasting
I have celebrated Easter at my home in Montepulciano.
I’ve had a fabulous evening with American people. Together we’ve tasted -virtually- some nice Tuscan wines from the winery Gattavecchi.
For those who cannot travel to Tuscany I have decided to organize a new perfect stay-at-home activity: a virtual Brunello di Montalcino wine tasting!
The focus of this online tasting is on learning and having fun. I have hosted several virtual wine tastings but I can say that tasting Montalcino wines -virtually- with other tasters was a different and unforgettable experience.
“Everyone enjoyed it. We had a good chat and the time with Bruno was wonderful.”
Virtual wine tasting Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
You do not need to be an expert to enjoy the wine Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. Just trust your taste and senses … and relax!
During the online tasting I will provide a presentation, show a video and introduce you to the winemaker.
Vasco Rosso Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Pian delle Ginestre is a small winery run by the Natalini family. They love their land and their wines. Bruno Natalini’s wines are special. His wines tell you the story of its territory.
In addition to the Brunello, the winemaker produces other wines like Toscano IGT and Rosso di Montalcino.
To join the tasting you need two bottles of wine: Rosso di Montalcino DOC and Brunello di Montalcino DOCG from the line of wines Vascorosso named after the famous Italian singer Vasco Rossi.
Vasco Rosso Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
After the wine tasting you’ll have wine leftovers. This is brilliant! Because following the virtual event, you can continue to practice tasting the wines for a few days.
Interested? I’d love to hear from you!
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Today Brunello di Montalcino is one of the most known and expensive wines. Brunello is not just a drink. It is an elegant and prestigious Tuscan wine with the ability to age well for years. It is one of those wines you should have tried at least once in your life!
Consortium Brunello di Montalcino
The wine is made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso. No other grapes are allowed in a Brunello wine. Brunello di Montalcino is a high tannin wine. This is one of the unique characteristics of this important wine. This wine gets better with age.
Before drinking the wine needs aeration, let it “breathe” at least 2 hours. A perfect match with this wine is steak (protein), seasoned cheeses and cured meats.
I always enjoy drinking a glass of Brunello, especially when I can share my love and passion for this wine with friends.
At present there are 250 wine producers in Montalcino. The total area is 24,000 ha of which 4,600 ha are used for viticulture. Each year around 11 million bottles of wine are produced.
Montalcino is a hilltop village surrounded by Crete Senesi and Val d’Orcia area. It is a town worth visiting. Not only for the wine but also for its unique beauty!
Spending one day in Florence may not be enough to discover the city. Florence is a place you have to see once in your lifetime. It is the city of cities for tourists.
Every year millions of people visit Florence.
At the moment, due to the impact of the coronavirus, many visitors stay away… unfortunately.
Fantastic and fun things to do
The city has many great things to offer, such as museums, Renaissance art, churches, wine bars, restaurants and some other well known highlights.
If you only have one day, make sure not to miss the Piazza della Signoria and Michelangelo’s David in the Galleria dell’Academia. The greatest masterpiece of the Renaissance.
Visit the Galleria degli Uffizi. Admire the goddess of beauty and love “Venus”. The Birth of Venus is painted by Botticelli.
Definitely a food lover’s paradise in the centre of Florence is The Mercato Centrale. An unmissable destination for fantastic food and a glass of wine.
Walk over the bridge Ponte Vecchio!
View of Florence and the Arno
Piazzale Michelangelo sits on a hill. Enjoy the panoramic view.
For special exhibitions* go to The Palazzo Strozzi. *In 2017 I have visited the exhibition dedicated to the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.
And not to forget The Palazzo Pitti. The Pitti Palace is Medici’s residence and it houses important collections of Renaissance paintings and sculptures.
Just to mention a few things what to do in Florence…
David of Michelangelo
The capital city of Tuscany
Florence or Firenze is the capital city of the region Tuscany. For me it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. It is the birthplace of the Renaissance.
As I am interested in Renaissance art, Florence is a city where I could return to again and again without ever getting bored.
Piazza del Duomo
Florence has incredible restaurants, gelaterias, cafes and osteria’s. Caffè Gilli is the oldest café in Florence. It is a cocktail bar with sofas and chairs in a nice chill-out “space”.
From here you have a beautiful view on the square Piazza della Republica, the largest piazza in Florence.
Visiting Florence during Covid-19
This February I have visited Florence. Tuscany was low risk “zona gialla”.
The Italian Dpcm rules related to the yellow zones: all shops and museums are open. Bars and restaurants are allowed to stay open from 5 AM until 6 PM.
The number of Covid-19 cases in Italy is still increasing. Tuscany has been classified as a red, orange and yellow zone.
The anti-Covid regulations are stricter for the red and orange zones. Museums are closed. Hairdressers are closed. Horeca can offer food delivery and takeaway. Traveling is prohibited unless absolutely necessary.
At present Tuscany is a orange zone.
On my way to Piazzale Michelangelo
Museum Le Gallerie degli Uffizi
In 2008 I have visited the Galleria degli Uffizi when I backpacked through Italy. I stayed at Camping Michelangelo for a few nights. I remember waiting there outside for hours to get in the museum.
Despite having few tourists at the moment, there was a queue to enter the Uffizi. These people were mostly Italian and school children.
Book your ticket online
Through the website of the Galleria degli Uffizi you can book your visit on a date and time of your choice. The price for the online entrance ticket is Euro 16,00 per person. With this ticket you avoid long lines.
Upon booking you will receive a confirmation email. You show your e-ticket to the ticket office where it will be exchanged for an entrance ticket.
Galleria degli Uffizi
To learn more about the museum’s most popular objects an audio guide provides interesting information on the things you see.
The audio guide is available in 4 languages (Italian, English, Spanish and German) and can be rented at the service desk, but only with your own valid ID card.
“La primavera” Sandro Botticelli
Important art works at the Uffizi Galleries
The works in the gallery are shown in the chronological order in which they were painted.
Many art collections belonged to the Medici family. The Gallery’s collection includes masterpieces of Filippo Lippi (Madonna col Bambino e due Angeli), Botticelli (Spring and The Birth of Venus), Michelangelo, Raffaelo and Leonardo da Vinci.
Filippo Lippi “Madonna col Bambino e due angeli”
“Nascita di Vendere” Sandro Botticelli
The Galleria degli Uffizi houses art works from Dutch, German and Flemish painters as well.
My favourite restaurant in Florence
Trattoria la Casalinga is situated only a stone’s throw away from the Palazzo Pitti. The location is a bit off the tourist path. This trattoria offers the best Tuscan meals!
Trattoria la Casalinga
I had lunch with Thomas, a friend of mine who works in the same businesses. He organizes wine tours and tastings in Tuscany.
We discussed various topics. Hopefully we can start a wine project together in the nearby future. Who knows! We feel the absence of (American) tourists. Wine tours and tastings are completely disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thomas enjoys wine and he knows a lot about it. He’s an expert. For our lunch he choose the wine Carmignano DOCG from the winery il Sassolo. This wine is made from 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a full bodied red wine, good pairing with local Tuscan food.
Our lunch menu
We started with chicken liver paté served on crostini and Lardo di Colonnato. As a main course we ordered the Fegato alla Toscana (pork liver). A deeply flavored piece of meat. Liver tastes really good. I like it.
Many people don’t eat organ meats. I can imagine that. Some people don’t even want to think of eating it. Luckily I eat almost anything. Liver is healthy, but you shouldn’t eat it too often.
Fegato alla toscana
Our lunch was top notch! Good food, excellent wine and nice ambiance. Great and fast service in Trattoria la Casalinga.
Shopping in Florence
Besides being the cradle of the Renaissance period, Florence is also the ultimate shopping destination in Italy. It is one of the “Made in Italy” fashion capitals, together with Milano. I enjoy shopping in Florence.
February is the period of sales. You find the best sales and discount on fashion clothing.
In the centre’s shopping areas people need to wear face masks. Also in shops face coverings are mandatory.
Before you go into a shop you must clean your hands with hand sanitizer gel.
My shopping addresses
In Florence I have my favourite shopping addresses. I am a regular customer at Intimissimi. I have a card for extra benefits. The service at Intimissimi is good and friendly.
At this moment my preferred clothing store is GUESS. GUESS is an American clothing brand. You’ll find a variety of styles. GUESS is fashionable for men and women. Hip and stylish!
Address: Via degli Speziali 9R, Firenze
Desigual is on one side of the Ponte Vecchio. Another clothing shop in Florence where I often check the latest trends.
Getting to Florence by public transport
There are several ways to get to Florence.
I always go to Florence by train from Chiusi-Chianciano Terme. From here it takes 1h 45 m on average to Firenze S.M.N.
You can buy your train ticket through the website Trenitalia or at the train station. A one way train ticket Chiusi – Firenze costs Euro 14,00 (regional train).
The top sights in the historical centre are easily to explore by foot. In Florence trams and busses are widely used.
From Florence you can make day trips by train. Cities such as Siena, Pisa and Arezzo are within easy reach.
Getting to Florence by car
Along the A1 highway is the Villa Costanza Car Park (Scandicci). You can access it both coming from the North or the South. Villa Costanza is the first Drive and Tramway car park in Italy.
Villa Costanza is an ideal alternative to avoid traffic jams in the centre of Florence. The T1 line brings you to the centre.
A single way costs Euro 1,50 and is valid for 90 minutes. Every tram stop has a ticket machine. You’re not able to buy tickets on board.
Running in Florence
Florence is a city where I have left literally many footprints. I ran the Firenze Marathon in 2016.
Firenze marathon 2016
And before that, I’ve participated in many smaller runs. This was the period in which we headed off to Florence almost every week. Even just for a training with Fulvio Massini.
We miss our races in Italy!
Notturna di San Giovanni 10 km run
Florence in a day.. enjoy this YouTube video!
I’ve made this video this February to let you experience Florence from a distance.