You may not need to take a flight to Hungary to taste incredibly tasty goulash, because you can also find it in northern Italy, in the region of South Tyrol, where you can stab your fork into their version of beef goulash.
When you ask in different European countries where to try goulash, a lot of people just shrug, because there are a lot of versions that came out after it was invented in Hungary in the 9th century. While some people collect souvenirs from the countries they visit, I instead “collect” goulash recipes to try. I have never been disappointed (well, on a couple of occasions, maybe) with them, and I find it interesting that in spite of the dish having the same name, each country presents goulash differently but with great similarity in flavor. And they are all exceptional.
What I am familiar with is the one from northern Italy, in the region of South Tyrol, where the Dolomite mountains are. Yes, they do make mean goulash dishes there. For about 15 years, I spent parts of my summer there, with goulash comprising my daily diet. Here, after trying out different recipes and tweaking here and there, I came up with something good that is based on the South Tyrolean version.
South Tyrolean beef goulash recipe
Goulash, that incredibly tasty spiced beef stew that continues to impress my taste buds, no matter its origin. Here is something based on the version from South Tyrol, in the north of Italy. Goulash tastes best after it rests for a few hours, so you can prepare this ahead of time.
Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 3 hours | Total time: 3 hours 15 minutes
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large or 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
- 2 pounds beef shoulder, shank or neck, cubed
- Salt and pepper
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 3 bay leaves, torn
- 4 ounces tomatoes, finely chopped
- 4 cups beef broth
- 1 teaspoon fresh or dried marjoram
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
- 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 tablespoon (or more) potato starch (or cornstarch)
- Polenta, for serving (optional)
- In a large Dutch oven or thick saucepan over medium heat with olive oil, sauté the onions until golden.
- Stir in the celery, and cook for another 3 minutes.
- Add the beef, and cook until the juices seep out. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the bell pepper, paprika, garlic, tomatoes and bay leaves, and after 1 minute of tossing, add the broth gradually until it is finished, mixing frequently. Let it boil.
- Over low heat, let the stew simmer for 2 hours. Cover for the final hour, when the sauce is starting to reduce.
- Add the marjoram, lemon zest and caraway seeds. Cook for another 15 minutes.
- Add about 1 tablespoon of the potato starch, adjusting the amount according to the thickness desired.
- Serve hot on top of freshly cooked polenta.
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