Food as Science

Old School Italian Comfort Food: Steak Pizzaiola

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Get transported to Grandma’s kitchen with Culinarian writer Andrew Marotta’s old-school Italian recipe. Andrew’s recipe for the Italian classic, Steak Pizzaiola, is a perfect hearty stew to snuggle up with while you’re hiding from frigid temperatures outside. 

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A traditional Neapolitan recipe once intended to hide tough cuts of beef and horse meat, Steak Pizzaiola is a staple dish of Italian homestyle cooking. But there’s many different versions of this classic dish, depending on which ingredients to include, the origins of the family recipe, and how to execute the meal. The following is my grandma’s recipe that’s been passed down several generations, but I’ve tweaked it a bit to fit my own taste. Enjoy!

The finished product

The finished product

Steak Pizzaiola

Adapted from the warm, loving kitchen of Josephine Marotta

Serves 8-10 people


  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ pound chuck steak, cubed
  • 2 Spanish onions, chopped
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 8 russet potatoes, chopped
  • 3 fresh carrots, diced
  • 1 box frozen peas
  • 2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • Fresh basil, minced
  • Oregano to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • Pecorino romano cheese, grated (optional)

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In a large pot, heat olive oil on medium-high for approximately 1 minute. Season meat with salt and pepper and add to pan. Lightly sear for 2 minutes. Add onions and cook for 2 more minutes.

Pour crushed tomatoes and whole peeled into pot. For each can, fill ¼ of the can with water and stir into pot. Add potatoes and peeled tomatoes. Stir all ingredients for 1-2 minutes. Be sure to scrape the meat and onions up from the bottom of the pot while stirring.

Add peas and carrots into pot and the two 8-ounce cans of tomato sauce. Turn flame on high and stir for 1 additional minute.

As ingredients come to a boil, add minced basil and season with oregano, salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. Cook on high flame while stirring frequently.

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After 12-15 minutes, reduce flame to a medium-low simmer, stirring occasionally, about once every 25 minutes.

After 1 hour, reduce to a low flame and simmer for another 1.5 hours.

This dish is best served in a large bowl, with a sprinkle of pecorino romano cheese on top, a loaf of semolina garlic bread, and a glass of Chianti.

Note: One of the best parts about cooking Steak Pizzaiola is that it continues to get more delicious over time as the herbs, spices, and sauce further marinate with the beef and vegetables. Store in the fridge and continue to reheat. The dish keeps for 4-5 days–if it lasts that long!

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