Prep 30 mins
Cook 2 hrs
Using meaty bones such as neck bones, steak bones, or shin bones lend great flavor to the broth. This recipe follows the same Italian traditions handed down, with one exception: I like to add slices of cooked polenta just before serving. Make the soup a day ahead and refrigerate it. This makes it easy to remove the fat that has collected and congealed on the surface of the soup.
FOR THE POLENTA
- 1 cup cornmeal, stone-ground
- 3 cups cold water
FOR THE SOUP
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 3⁄4 lbs meaty shin beef, center cut with bone, trimmed of any fat
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
- 2 cups plum tomatoes, diced fresh
- 2 stalks celery, washed and quartered
- 16 baby carrots
- 2 1⁄2 tablespoons fine sea salt
- grinding coarse black pepper
- 12 whole cloves, tied in a small piece cheesecloth
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 bunch fresh basil
- 10 cups hot water
- In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and brown the beef shin slowly on all sides.
- Add the onion, tomatoes, celery, carrots, salt, pepper, cloves, bay leaf, oregano, basil, and the water.
- Stir the ingredients with a wooden spoon and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer the soup, covered, for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, or until the beef shin is tender when pierced with a knife.
- With a slotted spoon remove the beef bones, carrots, and celery and place on a cutting board.
- Remove the cloves and discard.
- Pour the remaining liquid and ingredients through a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl. Press on the solids to extract the juices, then discard the solids.
- Pour the liquid into a large bowl and set aside.
- Trim the meat from the bones and shred it into small pieces. Add the meat to the liquid in the bowl.
- Cut the carrots and celery into thin slices and add them to the bowl.
- Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (you can omit this step and skim the fat while warm if you prefer).
- When ready to use, remove the plastic wrap; scoop off the fat that has congealed at the top of the bowl and discard it.
- Pour the soup back into a soup pot and heat on low until hot.
- Place a slice of polenta in each individual soup bowl.
- Ladle the soup over the polenta and serve immediately.
- Refrigerate the remaining soup for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
- To make the polenta, pour the cornmeal into a 1 1/2-quart saucepan and stir in the water with a wooden spoon.
- Cook, stirring, over medium heat until the cornmeal starts to thicken and leave the sides of the pan.
- Cook for about 15 minutes, always stirring in one direction to keep the mixture smooth.
- Pour the polenta out onto a cutting board, spread it evenly, and let cool. Cut the polenta into 8 pieces, cover with a piece of wax paper, set aside, and keep warm.
- Tip: You can make the polenta ahead of time. Cool, cover, and refrigerate it. When needed, cut it into pieces and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Heat for 5 to 7 minutes or until hot in a preheated 350ºF oven.