Legendary Dishes | Salsa Peposa (Roman-era sauce)

Peposa di Daino

 

This Roman sauce – made from garlic or onions, juniper berries, lovage, rosemary, peppercorns and reduced red wine – never really fell below the culinary radar.

It was revived by Giovan Francesco Rustici and his Company of the Cauldron in Florence in the early decades of the 1500s. In the centuries that followed the peposa could be found at the high tables of the aristocracy. And, living up to its schizophrenic reputation, it was served with meat that needed a strong sauce.

Some might say the quantity of herbs and spices in the recipe is now excessive, but the strong pepper taste and the aromatic herb flavour are the reasons why it has endured.

Honey and garum (or a fish condiment like Colatura di Alici) add sweetness and saltiness.

These days pepose sauce is served with game meat. It also works well with beef, especially whole cuts.

This is the basic sauce, with the emphasis on the onions and peppercorns but the wine is the essential ingredient.

1 kg venison, cut into strips
750 ml Montepulciano D'Abruzzo red wine
500 g red onions, sliced
50 g black peppercorns
10 bay leaves
30 g flour

Place venison into a large pot with the bay leaves, onions, peppercorns and wine, simmer over a very low heat for 24 hours.

Strain liquid, make a gravy with the flour.

Serve with the gravy and mashed potatoes.

 

Peposa alla Fornacina

 

This is an adaptation of a peposa recipe by Giuseppe Alessi at the La Pentola dell’Oro in Florence.

1 kg beef, whole piece
750 ml Montepulciano D'Abruzzo red wine
500 g red onions, chopped
250 g celery, chopped
250 ml olive oil
75 g black peppercorns 
1 pear, chopped
30 g juniper berries
25 g lovage, chopped
25 g rosemary 
1 lemon, peel 
10 cloves garlic, crushed
1 nutmeg, grated
1 tsp coarse salt

Sauté celery, garlic and onions in oil in a large pot over a medium heat for 15 minutes.

Add juniper berries, lemon peel and rosemary.

Brown the beef on all sides in this oily mixture, about three minutes each side.

Add nutmeg, peppercorns, salt and wine.

Simmer covered over a low heat for three hours.

Strain liquid, leave meat to rest.

Add pear to liquid, cook until it begins to thicken.

Cut beef into thick slices.

Serve with the gravy and mashed potatoes.


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