Traditionally speaking, picchiapò, simmered beef with tomato and onion, is a dish that emerged to make the most of leftover cooked meat. As such, recipes vary from cook to cook, and even from day to day. Ours is inspired by Sergio and Mara Esposito’s version at Mordi e Vai, a stall in the Testaccio Market. The Espositos serve sandwiches filled with Roman classics such as allesso di scottona, a simmered beef dish.
They cook their leftover allesso in a spicy, oniony tomato sauce, along with vegetables, creating the dish picchiapò. To make it from scratch at home, you can cook beef specifically for this purpose, or just start with simmered leftovers. Serve it on its own or on a Ciabattina, as the Espositos do. For more flavorful beef, salt the meat with kosher salt 4 hours and up to 24 hours before cooking.
Serves 4 to 6
– 1 pound beef shin or trim, nerve removed, salted in advance
– 1 cup dry white wine
– 2 carrots
– 3 onions
– 10 whole black peppercorns
– 3 whole cloves
– 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– Sea salt
– 1 tablespoon fresh marjoram
– Pinch of peperoncino or red pepper flakes
– 1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
– 5 fresh basil leaves
1. Place the salted beef in a large pot with water to cover. Slowly bring the water to a gentle simmer over low heat, skimming off any scum that rises to the top. Then add the wine, carrots, 2 of the onions, the peppercorns, and the cloves. Cook at a low simmer until the beef is fork-tender, about 2 hours. 2. Transfer the meat to a plate and shred it with tongs or two forks. Coarsely chop the cooked carrots and set aside.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. Meanwhile, coarsely chop the remaining onion. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Season with salt, then add the marjoram and peperoncino and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook until the sauce has reduced slightly and become less acidic, about 15 minutes. Add the shredded beef and carrots. Stir well, then cook for 15 minutes more to allow the sauce to come together and reduce slightly.
4. Serve immediately as a standalone dish, or use as a sandwich filling on a soft bun or crusty bread.
Tasting Rome is a love letter from two Americans to their adopted city, showcasing modern dishes influenced by tradition, as well as the rich culture of their surroundings. Even 150 years after unification, Italy is still a divided nation where individual regions are defined by their local cuisine—mirrors of their culture, history, and geography. But the cucina romana is the country’s greatest standout. Speakeasies, ten-table restaurants, and street food stalls may not be the first things that come to mind when you think of Rome, but these new realities have joined the traditional bars and trattorias of the Italian capital as bastions of great food and drink.
In Tasting Rome, journalist Katie Parla and photographer Kristina Gill capture Rome’s unique character and truly evolved food culture—a culmination of two thousand years of history. The recipes here, each selected for the story it tells, acknowledge the foundations of the cuisine and demonstrate how it has transitioned to the variations found today, ranging from genuine classics to fascinating but largely undocumented Libyan Jewish fare to centuries-old offal preparations, and so much more. Part cookbook, part travel memoir, this book transports all of the flavors of Rome into your kitchen.