Image © Gina Tringali
I recently had the pleasure of meeting with work buddies Gina and Brette over a hearty plate of this fabulous stew during what was supposed to be a serious business meeting. We roared with laughter, downed a mezzo litro of the house wine, burned our lips with the fiery red peperoncino flavoring the sauteed cicoria ripassata, and sopped our plates clean with warm chunks of pizza bianca.
Of course we were planning future food tours and comparing past culinary travel experiences, so food was the recognized topic at the center of our conversation.
Picchiapò has a funny name, it could easily translate to "beat just a little" but I'm guessing the etymology lies elsewhere. This is a typical Roman cucina povera dish, and one that naturally involves recycling of leftovers, namely bollito. Each family makes their own, so there is no official recipe. This is the one I've always known, shared by true trasteverini Romans.
If you remember seeing the 1974 Ettore Scola masterpiece C'eravamo tanto amati, friends Vittorio Gassman, Nino Manfredi and Stefano Satta Flores eat picchiapò at a trattoria.
After boiling beef muscle and bone for 3 hours with celery, carrots, onions studded with cloves and whatever else you add in your bollito to make good meat stock; and then letting it rest overnight, you can finally proceed to making your own personal variation of picchiapò. Here's mine.
500 g (1.1 lbs) leftover boiled beef or veal, possibly not too lean - roughly chopped
2-3 yellow or red onions, finely chopped
400 g (2 cups) canned tomatoes, crushed
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 peperoncino chili pepper
1 bay leaf
Extra virgin olive oil
2 glasses of dry, white wine
Salt to taste
Wilt the onions with 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide saucepan. Pour in the wine and let it evaporate while the onions turn a nice golden color.
Add the tomatoes and spices/herbs, and let cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sauce should reduce somewhat.
Fold in the leftover chopped meat and let it simmer gently for another 7-10 minutes.
Serve hot alongside mashed potatoes, or sauteed seasonal greens.