From America's Test Kitchen Season 6: Classic Italian Dishes
The Italian version of pot roast is an inexpensive cut of beef braised in wine. But what a difference that wine makes. Full-bodied Barolo has been called the “wine of kings”—and can be somewhat expensive, so this pot roast has to be special. We wanted moist, tender meat in a rich, savory sauce that would do justice to the regal wine.
A chuck-eye roast won’t dry out after a long braise, but it has a line of fat in the middle that we felt was out of place in this refined dish. Separating one roast into two smaller ones enabled us to discard most of this fat before cooking the meat, and the two roasts cooked more quickly than one larger one. We tied the roasts to hold them together, then browned them in the fat rendered from pancetta, which added rich flavor. Aromatics were browned next; then we poured a whole bottle of the wine into the pot. Barolo is so bold-flavored that we needed something in the braising liquid to temper it, and that proved to be a can of diced tomatoes. When the meat was done, we removed it from the pot, reduced the sauce, and strained out the vegetables. Dark, full-flavored, and lustrous, this sauce bestowed nobility on our humble cut of meat.
Purchase pancetta that is cut to order, about 1/4 inch thick. If pancetta is not available, substitute an equal amount of salt pork (find the meatiest piece possible), cut it into 1/4-inch cubes, and boil it in 3 cups of water for about 2 minutes to remove excess salt. After draining, use it as you would pancetta.
This braise can be prepared up to 2 days in advance; complete the recipe through step 2. When you're ready to serve, skim off the fat congealed on the surface and gently warm until the meat is heated through. Continue with the recipe from step 3.
Update: The 1997 Argento Barolo we recommended for this recipe is no longer available at Trader Joe's. Trader Joe's has replaced the Argento with a 2000 La Loggia Barolo that costs $13.99. We tried this wine in our recipe and were equally pleased with the results.