Hear this podcast episode HERE.
I enjoy playing around with different flavors in traditional recipes and giving them a fresh spin. For instance, from-scratch chicken noodle soup can be brightened up with the addition of fresh ginger, lime, and cilantro, and maybe a dash of fresh diced jalapeño or other hot pepper for a slight kick.
One day a few years ago I was preparing pot roast ingredients to load into the Crock Pot, when it dawned on me that I could take this standard family fare in another direction. Instead of the usual pot roast seasoning of salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary, etc., and onions, carrots, and potatoes with gravy, what about an Italian twist? Instead of the carrots and potatoes, how about diced tomatoes and red bell pepper, along with the onions, and thyme, oregano, basil, and parsley for seasoning? Oh, and a splash of red wine couldn’t hurt. When the roast is cooked to fork-tenderness, pull it apart in chunks, and serve it over creamy polenta with a drizzle of olive oil, some chopped fresh parsley, and, of course, grated Parmesan cheese.
The whole scenario ran through my mind in an instant. So I followed my inspiration, and my Italian Pot Roast turned out fabulous!
Part of my thought process involved how I could use polenta. I had known about this creamy cornmeal dish for some time, seeing it on TV cooking shows, in magazines, and elsewhere. Along with pasta, it is a staple of Italian cuisine. To us Hoosiers, it’s known as grits.
I thought I should be authentic and use “polenta” so I found a quick-cooking Italian polenta that I used the first few times I made it. It was perfect with the Italian Pot Roast, serving as a creamy bed on which to ladle the tender beef chunks and sauce. But lately, when I make polenta, I pull out the Quaker Yellow Corn Meal and cook it according to the directions for Corn Meal Mush on the box. I add a little butter, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese, and maybe a splash of milk to keep it creamy. It’s delicious and comforting.
A recent discovery I’ve made is another grits product that makes a fine polenta–Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits. It’s a bit pricey, but delicious, and the orange corn is a brighter color on the plate if you are serving it with the Italian Pot Roast or Shrimp & Grits. Professor Torbert is a real professor of agronomy at Purdue University, who developed a special line of corn that is higher in beta-carotene, giving it a more orange hue. He has turned his orange corn into a specialty food product. I hope to share his story on a future episode of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast.
In the meantime, give the Italian Pot Roast a try. You can cook it in your slow cooker, roasting pan or Dutch oven. All three methods are explained below, and you can hear me cooking it here. Enjoy!
Italian Pot Roast (Serves 4-6)
- One 2 to 2.5 lb. chuck roast
- Olive oil
- One medium to large onion, roughly chopped
- One bell pepper, any color, roughly chopped
- 2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup beef broth*
- 1/2 cup red wine*
- 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 6-oz can tomato paste
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp dried basil
- Italian flat-leaf parsley, one handful chopped fresh, or 1 tsp dried
- 1 T sugar
- Kosher salt & pepper
- More parsley
- Grated parmesan cheese
- Cooked polenta (directions below) or bite-size pasta, such as ziti
If cooking in a slow cooker (Crock Pot), reduce amount of wine/broth by half. Use a 1/2-cup of EITHER broth or wine, or reduce to 1/4-cup each.
Slow cooker instructions:
Put roast, veggies, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, broth/wine, herbs, sugar, and salt & pepper to taste in cooker. Cook on low for 10-12 hours. Or cook on high for 5-6 hours.
For conventional oven, preheat to 325º. Combine all ingredients in a large roasting pan as instructed for slow cooker above. Cover pan with foil or a lid, and bake 2.5 to 3 hours, till fork tender. When done, remove from oven, and let sit, covered, up to 30 minutes.
Conventional oven, plus extra flavor step for braising:
Season roast on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat an oven safe pot, like a dutch oven, on the stove on medium setting. Drizzle about 1 T. olive oil in hot pan and place roast in to sear. About 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove roast from pot and set aside.
Lower heat to med-low and pour in broth and wine. Allow it to boil and scrape up bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot, 2-3 minutes. Carefully add roast back to the pot, season with thyme, oregano, and basil. Add onions, peppers, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, and sugar.
Cover pot and place in preheated oven, and allow to braise for 2.5 to 3 hours, till fork tender. When done, remove from oven and let the roast sit, covered, for up to 30 minutes.
To serve, pull roast apart into chunks and stir it into the sauce. Ladle over cooked polenta or pasta in bowls, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with parsley and parmesan cheese. Makes great leftovers.
To make polenta:
You don’t have to buy “polenta.” Use Quaker Yellow Corn Meal and follow the instructions for cooking “Corn Meal Mush” on the box. When it has finished cooking and is thick and creamy it is ready to serve. If it thickens up too much before you are ready to serve, add a bit of milk and whisk. It’s also tasty to stir in a couple tablespoons of olive oil and 1/3 to 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese.