Recipe: Donkey braised in red wine…a delicious twist on Brasato al Barolo


As we step into the cooler months, hearty braised dishes take pride of place. Brasato, meaning braised, is a delicious method of cooking more fibrous or tougher cuts of meat.  The slow and low cooking method makes for tender fare.  Barolo, one of Italy’s great red wines, is a classic foil for this dish, and its robust flavours stand up well.

The best meat for this is shoulder meat, a sottopaletta (under the shoulder blade).  But you can just as easily make it with beef chuck…a little fat and connective tissue help it along.

Donkey is a surprisingly lean and mild meat, and one which is perfect in this preparation.

  • 1 kg of donkey shoulder
  • 2 tbsps butter
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 1 carrot, chopped fine
  • 1 stick of celery, chopped fine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves
  • Light grating of nutmeg
  • 1 onion, minced
  • A dozen juniper berries, crushed
  • A few pinches of cinnamon
  • Trinity of herbs: sage, rosemary and thyme…a sprig each
  • 1 bottle of Barolo or other Nebbiolo wine
  • Beef stock or water if needed to cover the meat

Brown the meat all over in a heavy-botttomed casserole in the olive oil over medium heat.  Remove and set aside.  Turn the heat down and sauté the vegetables until thoroughly sweated. 

Return the meat to the pot, add the wine, herbs, and cover.  Turn the heat up enough to bring it almost to a boil, and then reduce it to find a temperature which is only very just bubbling—you want to cook it slowly.  The meat should be fully submerged, so add liquid to make it so.

Simmer gently for 2 hours and then turn off the heat and let cool overnight.  Remove the meat, slice, and set aside.  Remove cloves, bay leaf, and herbs, and then using an immersion blender, turn the liquid and vegetables into a thick sauce.  Heat until just about to boil, add in the butter, stir to blend, turn off the heat.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Place the meat in the sauce to warm up, then remove and arrange on a platter.  Nap the meat with the sauce and serve.

This is best served accompanied with polenta or potatoes.  Divine.

9 thoughts

  1. It sounds delicious, but I am surprised to see “donkey” on the menu. I have never seen that for sale here. While I am usually open to trying just about anything, it would be hard for me to eat both donkey or horses as I have had both for pets. It always fascinates me how different food can be across cultures! Please know that I am absolutely not judging here, just expressing curiosity. I love that you share recipes with us. XOXO

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I understand. I decided a long time ago to eat pretty much anything, or at least to try pretty much anything. We still eat horse in Italy, and yes, the irony of my horse love is not lost on me. Donkey, too, has been pets as well as beasts of burden…so thet is hard too. But both are also delicious when prepared well. Donkey has a very delicate flavour.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. The other thing we don’t do much of is drink donkey milk. It is delicious. It is “milkier” than cows milk if that makes sense. It is slightly sweeter, and has a “fresher” and more agreeable flavour to it. And they say that camel’s milk is so highly nutritious…we raised our children on goat’s milk, which is definitely better for you…but they sure smelled different as babies!

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s