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Florentine Tomato-Based Beef Stew (Stracotto alla Fiorentina)

If you were invited for Stracotto at any of my Italian friend's homes, you'd typically be indulging in a large, mouth watering chunk of succulent beef tenderized in an aromatic tomato sauce for about three hours.  So what if I told you that you can enjoy the same comfort dish but get it to the table in less time and with more nutrients? Stew-pendous, right?

 

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1½ lbs (680 g) extra-lean beef stewing meat, cut into 1-inch/2.5 cm cubes
1 onion, diced
½ cup chopped green onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup red wine
1 cup canned Gigi whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
1 can (5.5 oz/156 mL) no-salt-added tomato paste
4 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
¾ cup water
1½ cups diced celery
2 tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves, or 1 tsp dried sage
2 to 3 bay leaves
1 tsp Italian herb seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup cubed sweet potato
1 cup diced carrots
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp cornstarch

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil under high heat.  Pat meat dry and add it to pot; stir continuosly until browned, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add onions and garlic.  Stir continuosly, scraping up the bottom brown bits, about 2 minutes.  Stir in wine, tomatoes and tomato paste until well combined.  Add beef broth, water, celery (it's your choiced how big or small you dice it), sage, bay leaves, Italian herb seasoning, and black pepper.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for one and a half hours.  Add sweet potatoes, carrots and parsley during the last 30 minutes of cooking time.

Combine cornstarch with 2 tbsp water, stir and add into the stew.  Simmer for 5 minutes to thicken stew, remove and discard bay leaves and serve.  I like this smothered over brown rice or whole wheat couscous but it's also great over whole grain or spelt pasta or a slice of sweet potato polenta.

MAKE AHEAD: Because extra-lean cuts of beef can vary in tenderness and texture, the longer they simmer the more fall-apart delicious they become.  Make this stew the day before and heat it up just before serving.

 

LOW IN...CHOLESTEROL
Extra-lean beef offer an excellent source of protein similar to white meat, but loean beef has less cholesterol than many poultry pieces and similar amounts of fat.  This stew uses chuncks of extra-lean beef instead of whole beef rump or chuck roast, which is typically wrapped in pancetta and herbs, seared, then slowly braised.  Here, we've left out the fatty pancetta, but you won't miss it- the bounty of herbs and spices makes up for it, while the sweet potato adss a welcome sweetness.

 

 
6 SERVINGS
GLUTEN-FREE

310 CALORIES | 7G TOTAL FAT (2G SATURATED) 3 G FIBER | 42 G PROTEIN | 182 MG SODIUM | 17G CARBOHYDRATE | 3G FIBER | 42 G PROTEIN