U Tuccu: Genoese Meet Sauce

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The “tuccu zeneize” is a traditional meat sauce typical of the city of Genoa. From ancient origins, it is called this because it is made with a single piece of meat, “un tocco“, cooked for a long time in tomato sauce.
In this sauce the meat releases all its juices and aromas very slowly, forming a dense and succulent sauce, very tasty, but at the same time delicate and not fatty at all.
In the traditional diet of the Genoese meat is a fairly rare food, this recipe shows it because in fact from a single piece of meat two courses are obtained: first and second. The first one will be tagliatella or raviolo (rigorously of Genoese borage) seasoned with the sauce; the second will be a slice of the famous “Tuccu”, overcooked and very soft.
This recipe is certainly not suitable if you are in a hurry . It needs to be pampered: it takes a lot of patience (I assure you, fully rewarded 🙂) because the sauce has to cook hours and hours very slowly, on low heat.
This sauce, whose recipe has been handed down from generation to generation by Genoese women for centuries, is traditionally prepared on Sunday or on holidays. Its warm and persistent scent gives a home atmosphere, serene and relaxed.

The “tuccu” is a real bulwark of the Genoese tradition, excellent also on lasagna. In “Crêuza de mä“, a dialectal masterpiece by Fabrizio De Andrè, “lasagne ai quattru tucchi” are mentioned. Tuccu is also mentioned in Giovan Battista Ratto‘s famous “Cuciniera Genovese“, a true encyclopedia of traditional Ligurian cuisine dated 1863, containing a section entitled “Sughi o intinti (Tócchi)” in which tuccu is referred to as “meat sauce”.

Among the many tuccu recipes that have come to us from past centuries, the richest in history is certainly the one handed down to us by the illustrious and legendary violinist, the “zeneize” Niccolò Paganini. Paganini really loved “Tuccu“. In a letter dated 1838 now kept at the Library of Congress in Washington, Paganini told his friend Luigi Germi about the method of preparing his favorite dish, the “raieü co-o tócco” (ravioli with tuccu):

Per una libbra e mezza di farina due libbre di buon manzo magro per fare il suco. Nel tegame si mette del butirro, indi un poco di cipolla ben tritolata che soffrigga un poco. Si mette il manzo, e fare che prenda un po’ di colore. E per ottenere un suco consistente si prende poche prese di farina, ed adagio si semina in detto suco affinché prenda il colore. Poi si prende della conserva di pomodoro, si disfa nell’acqua, e di quest’acqua se ne versa entro alla farina che sta nel tegame e si mescola per scioglierla maggiormente, e per ultimo si pongono entro dei fonghi secchi ben tritolati e pestati; ed ecco fatto il suco.

Ingredients (for 4 people)

  • 500-600 g piece of beef
  • 1 white onion
  • 1clove of garlic
  • 1 sprig of parsley
  • 1 leg of celery
  • 2 or 3 carrots
  • 2 or 3  sprigs of rosemary
  • 100 g pine nuts
  • about 4 bay leaves
  • 2 sage leaves
  • 500 g peeled tomatoes
  • 1/2 tube of tomato paste
  • a glass of red wine
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 200 ml beef broth
  • Salt q.s.
  • Pepper as needed
  • Some juniper berries (4 or 5)

Instructions

  1. In a fairly large pot (the ideal would be a terracotta casserole), put plenty of olive oil, a chopped white onion, a clove of garlic, a celery stalk, diced carrots, rosemary, sage and bay leaf.
  2. Sauté over very low heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.
  3. Meanwhile, in a pan, with a drizzle of oil, seal the piece of meat, for about 30 seconds per side.
  4. Add the piece of meat, parsley, meat broth (or, alternatively, water), tomato paste, juniper berries, salt and pepper to taste, and a glass of red wine in the saucepan.
  5. Still on a very gentle heat, pat” the sauce for about 30 minutes, without forgetting to stir occasionally and add a little water if necessary.
  6. After 30 minutes, add the peeled tomatoes and cook for at least 4-5 hours, always on very low heat, stirring occasionally, so as to perfectly marry all the aromas and to make the sauce take on a nice dark color.

N.B. Genoese women usually cook it for 8-9 hours.

Your Tuccu is ready to be enjoyed!

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