top view of round pan with peposo close up on a marble board
Home » Italian Recipes » Brunelleschi’s Peposo: The Easiest Italian Stew to Learn to Make at Home

Brunelleschi’s Peposo: The Easiest Italian Stew to Learn to Make at Home

Last updated on June 22nd, 2024

Are you in search of a simple stew that will take no more than 15 minutes of prep time. The hunt is over! 

Peposo is a ridiculously easy stew to make, warming you down to the bones. 

This Tuscan stew is one of my favorites because it calls for only four ingredients, apart from salt and olive oil. You basically throw everything into a pot, put a lid on it and let time do its magic. You do have to brown the meat but this takes no more than 15 minutes. I also will pop it in the oven instead of using the burners so I can even go out and pick up my kids from school. When we get back, dinner is served!

This particular recipe I got from my husband’s grandfather, who wrote a very complete manual to Italian cooking (although never published, unfortunately). We have a copy which is 5 volumes and thousands of pages, hand decorated with drawings and full of rich history and antidotes. It’s truly a gift to be able to use it, especially as I worked my way through Italian cooking basics. 

This is a no-frills, no-fuss recipe – perfect for first timers yet good enough for professionals!

Read more about Traditional Tuscan Food and Easy Italian Dinner Ideas.

Recipe Pronunciation

top view close up of peposo in a large round pot on a marble board

Pronounced peh-POH-soh 

What is Peposo?  

Peposo is a very dark, rich stew made from just six ingredients: good, marbled stewing beef, peppercorns, olive oil, garlic, salt and Chianti wine.

It’s cooked low and slow, creating a fork tender beef swimming in a rich, peppery wine sauce.

It’s most commonly served with nothing but plenty of bread to fare la scarpetta, the Italian term to describe the action of cleaning your plate by mopping up the remaining sauce with a crust of bread. 

Stew Fan? You may also like my recipe for spezzatino (classic Italian beef stew).

A Short History of Peposo

front view of duomo of florence with bell tower

When Filippo Brunelleschi was given the opportunity to oversee the design and building of the cupola or dome of the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral (Florence) in 1420, little did he know he would also discover his love for this ancient peposo stew from Impruneta, just outside of Florence. 

In his design, Brunelleschi incorporated a bright red terracotta made in this small town called Impruneta where he would visit often to check up on how the tiles he needed were being made.

side view of market stand selling various terracotta pots used to cook Italian food
These terracotta pots are used to make many Italian dishes including peposo.

The terracotta tiles were cooked by fornacini in large kilns. Story is told that one day Brunelleschi noticed the workers putting in a large pot at the opening to the kiln and after much time had passed noted the workers helping themselves to a rich stew from that same pot. Turns out that the workers had come up with this peposo alla fornacina, as it was once called, as a way to always have a hot meal at the end of the day with little work involved. They say that originally all the ingredients were just thrown into the pot and left to stew, without browning the meat (now we know how much a little browning can do for a stew!).

The moment Brunelleschi was given the opportunity to try their stew, he jumped at it and the rest is history. He fell in love.

Since then, many variations have been developed for this recipe such as with the addition of herbs, tomatoes or vegetables such as carrots and onions. Although tasty, this is not how it was originally made and not how you will find it in Tuscany. 

Tuscans are purists and they don’t much care for change which is why to this day, the recipe has remained untouched yet beloved throughout the region by locals and tourists alike. 

Ingredients for Peposo

top view of pepper spread on a marble board

Serves 6 people. prep time 15 min. cook time 3 hrs

  • 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
  • 2.5 pounds braising or stewing beef such as chuck, cut into 1-1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 Tablespoon roughly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 750 mL bottle Chianti red wine

Step-By-Step Instructions for Making Peposo

top view showing half of a round pan with browned meat on marble board
Brown the meat until crisp and golden, being careful not to overcrowd the pan
  1. Salt the meat well.
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy bottom pan and start to brown the beef in small batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Remove and set aside until all the meat is browned. If the bottom of the pan looks like it’s getting a bit burnt, that is ok – those dark bits are flavor!
  3. Smash the garlic with the back of your kitchen knife to release its aroma.
  4. Return the meat with its juices to the pot and add the garlic and pepper, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate the crusted bits into the stew. 
  5. Add the red wine and bring to a simmer.
  6. Gently simmer over very low heat, covered, for at least 2.5 hours and up to 3 hours, checking occasionally that the wine has not evaporated and that the meat is not drying out. If so, add a bit of water and continue to cook until the meat is extremely tender but just shy of falling apart. Taste for salt and add if need be.
  7. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  8. Simmer the sauce for another 25-40 minutes or so without the lid, allowing the liquid to reduce into a thick and silky sauce (it should be reduced by at least half but even more if you want less sauce).
  9. Remove the garlic pieces if it hasn’t dissolved.
  10. Serve piping hot with crusty bread, preferably Tuscan bread if you want to be truly authentic.
top view of large round pan with browned meat and a bottle of red wine being added on a marble board

Peposo Substitutions

top view of marble board with two blue plates, one with peposo and one with green beans and boiled potatoes in the corner of pictures. A big pan of peposo and some bread poking into other corners
  • If you want to make authentic peposo, do not add tomatoes or any other vegetables such as onions or carrots. Although you can and it will taste great, it’s not the original recipe that Brunelleschi fell in love with. This being said, you certainly can and it will be delicious.
  • Try using whole peppercorns that you have lightly crushed with the back of a large knife and wrapping them in a small bundle of cheese cloth that you can easily fish out at the end of cooking. Which method do you prefer?
  • Try braising your meat in an oven-proof pot instead of simmering it gently over the stove. About 250° F (120° C) should do it. It may take a bit longer to cook. I actually prefer this method because I don’t like leaving burners on. The results are just as good!
  • If you are worried about it being too spicy for your kids then just add 1 teaspoon of ground pepper.

What to Serve With Peposo

top view close up of large round pan with stewed peposo on a marble board
  • Plenty of crusty bread. Most traditionally, Tuscan bread which has no salt is used but I personally prefer it with salted bread such as a nice crusty ciabatta that is equally good at sopping up every last bit of sauce. 
  • If you want to stray from tradition, this recipe would be excellent with so many Italian contorni or side dishes such as mashed potatoes, polenta and cooked bitter greens. 
  • Add some gremolata to the dish when you serve it.

Peposo Notes and Tips

view of hand holding blue plate with peposo from top view with a corner of bread and otherplates in background of a marble table
  • I suggest you make this stew at least one day before you plan on eating it because the flavor profile really improves as it sits. 
  • Avoid cooking the meat to the point at which it’s completely shredded because it’s so tender. Aim for fork tender but not fall off the bone tender- a fine line. Try to stick to the indicated cooking times for an indication of when the meat should be done. 
  • Double the recipe and freeze leftovers for an easy weeknight meal.
top view of round pan with peposo close up on a marble board

Authentic Italian Peposo

An easy Tuscan stew to make that requires just 15 minutes of prep time and only four ingredients (plus salt and olive oil).
No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 people

Ingredients
  

  • 4-5 Tbsp olive oil preferably extra virgin
  • 2.5 lbs braising or stewing beef cut into 1-1 1/2 inch pieces such as chuck
  • 3 whole cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp roughly-ground black pepper
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 750 ml bottle of Chianti red wine

Instructions
 

  • Salt the meat well.
  • Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy bottom pan and start to brown the beef in small batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Remove and set aside until all the meat is browned. If the bottom of the pan looks like it’s getting a bit burnt, that is ok – those dark bits are flavor! Add more olive oil if need be.
  • Smash the garlic with the back of your kitchen knife to release its aroma.
  • Return the meat with its juices to the pot and add the garlic and pepper, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate the crusted bits into the stew.
  • Add the red wine and bring to a simmer.
  • Gently simmer over very low heat, covered, for at least 2.5 hours and up to 3 hours, checking occasionally that the wine has not evaporated and that the meat is not drying out. If so, add a bit of water and continue to cook until the meat is extremely tender but just shy of falling apart. Taste for salt and add if need be.
  • Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  • Simmer the sauce for another 25-40 minutes or so over medium-low heat without the lid, allowing the liquid to reduce into a thick and silky sauce (it should be reduced by at least half but even more if you want less sauce).
  • Remove the garlic pieces if it hasn’t dissolved.
  • Serve piping hot with crusty bread, preferably Tuscan bread if you want to be truly authentic.

Notes

  • I suggest you make this stew at least one day before you plan on eating it because the flavor profile really improves as it sits.
  • Avoid cooking the meat to the point at which it’s completely shredded because it’s so tender. Aim for fork tender but not fall off the bone tender- a fine line. Try to stick to the indicated cooking times for an indication of when the meat should be done.
  • Double the recipe and freeze leftovers for an easy weeknight meal.
Keyword authentic, easy, Tuscan
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Peposo FAQ

How long can I keep leftover peposo in the fridge?

I usually don’t suggest people keep food longer than 5 days. If you think you aren’t going to use it, just pop it in the freezer for up to three months!

Is peposo too peppery for small kids?

My kids are young and they have always enjoyed this beef stew. It is very peppery though, making it a bit spicy. If your kids don’t like any spice, halve the pepper, using 1 teaspoon ground black pepper. 

Can I make peposo with pork?

No, I wouldn’t. Pork doesn’t fall apart as beef does unless it’s a specific cut of meat meant for braising such as used in pulled pork. 

Can I use any red wine to make peposo?

Yes, of course. Just be sure it’s a red wine you would want to drink. The general rule on cooking with wine is that if it’s good enough to drink, it’s good enough to cook with.

Can I freeze peposo?

Yes, you can freeze it for up to 2 months. Gently defrost in the refrigerator and warm slowly.

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