Pasticada Dalmatian Dish

Pasticada traditional Dalmatian dish

In my family, Dalmatian pasticada has always been one of the preferred Christmas lunch meals.  This traditional Dalmatian recipe is taken from my mother's old cooking book from 1959.

This book titled ‘Guide to the Dalmatian cuisine' was written by Dika Marjanivic Radica. It is one of the most important books about local Dalmatian cooking. The first edition was published in 1939 in Split. 

Unfortunately, this book has never been published in the English language but it presents the best collection of Dalmatian cooking ever published. Have you ever wondered what makes Dalmatia food so special and unique?

The fact is that every Dalmatian family that keeps up the tradition has its own pasticada recipe. How many chefs, so many different recipes and everyone claims his own as the best one.

While black risotto is a transitional fish dish, Pasticada is a meat dish. Both of these dishes you will find in almost every Split restaurant.

Pasticada ingredients

For 6 people

  • At least 2 kg of beef or veal (rose or walnut).
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 10dkg pancetta
  • 5-6 large heads of red onion
  • About 10 prunes
  • Prosecco or red wine – half of glass 
  • spices (salt, pepper, nutmeg, rosemary, bay leaf, thyme and cloves if desired)
Pasticada Beef rose

For a traditional pasticada, every chef will tell you to choose veal frikandò, but I prefer beef rose or walnut. It's softer and tenderer, and therefore easier to prepare.

Important note: The piece of meat has to be always in one block. It will be cut into slices only at the end of the preparation.

The preparation process

The preparation process is divided into three phases as pasticada can not be prepared in a day.

The first phase:

Take the whole block of meat and with the pointed knife make several holes up to 2-4 cm deep in different parts.

You will need to push in separate holes some longish sliced pieces of garlic and pancetta (bacon). After that insert some cloves in four or five places.

That way prepared meat has to be left in a large pot completely soaked over the night into the red wine vinegar.  It should stay overnight. The ratio of vinegar and water is 1 to 3.

The second phase:

The next day, prepare separately one liter of bouillon that you will need. Taking the meat of the vinegar prepare a high pan adding a half finger of olive oil and roast the entire block of meat slowly from all sides.

If the meat remains without the juice and starts catching to the bottom of the pan, add a small quantity of bouillon (soup) and keep on roasting.

When the meat takes brown color from all sides, take it out for the moment, and in the same pot add minced onion, 2 to 3 prune, a bit of grated nutmeg, pepper, salt, and prosecco (if not red wine), in which a big spoon of tomato concentrate is dissolved.

 I usually add one or two finely chopped carrots. (it’s optional). Many don't recommend using carrots!

Inside this mixture add the block of meat and add a sufficient quantity of bouillon (soup) to cover the meat. 

The size of the pot must be as close to the size of the meat block as possible, in order not to add too much liquid and to keep pasticada sauce as dense as possible.

Meat is then cooked on light flame for about 2-3 hours until it is almost completely cooked. You can use a pressure cooker that will reduce cooking time to a little more than an hour.

The third and final phase:

The meat is taken out and the sauce is run through a strainer. After the meat is cut into 1 cm thick slices, it is returned back to the sauce. Altogether is then cooked for about 1/2 hour, until the meat becomes very soft.

The pasticada sauce has to be dense and dark brown. If it is not dense and dark enough, fine sieved bread crumbs are separately roasted on the oil until they grow dark brown. A large spoon of tomato concentrate is added, altogether has to be fried and added to the sauce at least 1/2 hour before the end.

Pasticada side dish

Pasticada is served with potato gnocchi or pasta with Parmesan cheese. It goes always with a glass of good red wine.

If you are fortunate to find yourself on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast this summer no doubt you will have a chance to sample pasticada. Read this Croatia Week recipe! 

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