Roast belly of veal with cep and Parmigiano Reggiano

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This beautifully marinated veal meat, stuffed with a rich, umami mixture of cep (or porcini mushrooms as they are often known) and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is slow roasted until meltingly tender. A drizzle of intensely flavoured cooking juices adds the final touch of moisture and aroma.

First published in 2015

The highly productive soil of northern Italy yields exceptional dairy products and meats from animals that graze on the lush slopes. This dish features both – great handfuls of Parmigiano Reggiano, made with this fatty mountain milk, and light, tender veal. I was taught this dish by Silvana Ghillani, a fantastically accomplished home cook from the town of Calestano, where I visited recently to explore the many uses of Parmigiano Reggiano.

A woman with a reputation for extraordinary production in the kitchen, she opened her house to us for a multi-course feast. Central to the meal was this roast belly of veal, marinated overnight in herbs and other aromatics, then stuffed with her own homemade breadcrumbs, dried cep (porcini mushrooms) and vast quantities of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Cooked very low and very slow, the meat is incredibly tender, basted in white wine as it roasts, with the filling moist and beautifully seasoned. After careful carving, the final, elegant slices are drizzled with the concentrated cooking juices for even more moisture and flavour. Her mushroom ravioli, Parmigiano Reggiano gnocchi and caramelised walnut cake (before and after dinner!) will also linger in my mind for a long time to come.


Both the meat and the filling benefit from being made the day before, so they can rest overnight, allowing the flavours to penetrate and combine. The roasting process is also lengthy, but largely hands-off.

Great served with more of that homemade bread, to mop up the juices, as well as plenty of seasonal vegetables to balance the rich, savoury meat.

All images courtesy of John Holdship unless otherwise credited.





To begin, finely chop the fresh herbs and mix together in a small bowl with two cloves of crushed garlic, the wine vinegar and sea salt, to taste. Massage the mixture into the meat, spreading it on top and underneath the meat. Leave to rest in the fridge, to allow the herbs to penetrate the meat, preferably overnight
To prepare the filling, add the dried cep mushrooms to a small bowl and rehydrate in about 250ml of lukewarm water. Discard the water after ten minutes and replace with fresh water. Remove the mushrooms from the water after a further 10 minutes (retain this second soak water), squeeze out any excess liquid and chop into small pieces. Set aside
Heat a medium saucepan with a good drizzle of olive oil over a low heat. Peel the shallot and slice thin rounds straight into the saucepan (this method retains all the shallot's juices). Finely chop the remaining clove of garlic and add to the shallot. Cook gently until the shallot softens, about ten minutes, adding a splash of water if the mixture starts to catch or fry. When the shallot is ready, mash to a pulp with a potato masher
Increase the heat to high and add the rehydrated mushrooms, a squeeze of tomato purée, a good pinch of salt and a grind or two of black pepper. Stir to combine and fry for a minute or two
Add the reserved mushroom soak water and 1/2 vegetable stock cube, and bring to the boil, adding a little more water if necessary – you will need enough liquid to rehydrate the breadcrumbs – then turn off the heat
Put the breadcrumbs in a medium bowl and add the mushroom sauce, a little at a time, mixing to combine. The moistened breadcrumb mixture shouldn’t be too moist, nor too stiff – the amount of liquid this will take will depend on your breadcrumbs – so you may need less sauce or a splash of extra stock to achieve the right texture. When you are satisfied, leave to cool. When the breadcrumbs are lukewarm, add the Parmigiano Reggiano and a few scrapes of whole nutmeg, mixing thoroughly to combine
Crack in the eggs and mix again until the filling is homogenous. Leave to rest, preferably overnight, to allow the flavours time to amalgamate
Preheat the oven to 130°C/gas mark 1
When the meat has finished marinating and the filling is ready fill the pocket in the veal belly with the stuffing, as evenly as possible, but do not overfill – the filling will expand as it bakes. Use a needle and white cotton thread to stitch up the opening, making two runs to ensure there are no gaps for the filling to leak out
Coat the bottom of a baking dish with olive oil – the dish should be roughly the same size as your veal – and lay in the meat. Drizzle more olive oil on top. Cover with tinfoil to keep the moisture in the meat and roast slowly for about two hours
Remove from the oven and increase the temperature to 200°c/gas mark 6. Discard the tinfoil and pour over a small glass of white wine. Return to the oven and roast for a further hour, basting the meat from time to time with the juices that collect in the bottom of the dish. If the meat starts to look dry, add a little more white wine
When the veal has finished cooking, remove from the oven. Pour off the cooking liquid and reserve. Leave the meat to cool until lukewarm – if you slice the meat when it is hot, the filling will collapse. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut into 1.5cm slices and lay on a serving platter. Serve at this cool temperature, with a little of the reserved cooking sauce drizzled over to moisten
First published in 2015

Specialising in vegetarian food, Nancy has cooked her way around Europe and now writes full time for publications and her blog, Delicious from Scratch.

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