Beef Stew with Carrots and Polenta

My mother made traditional beef stew, in a pressure cooker (now called an “instant pot”), with onions, potatoes, and carrots, lots of gravy, and topped with puffy dumplings. I loved it, even though the vegetables were way overcooked and mushy.

I’ve also learned to love the Italian combination of braised beef and polenta. Here, the polenta stands in admirably for the potatoes and dumplings, the onions flavor the braising liquid, which becomes the gravy, and the carrots add texture and color. I add the carrots towards the end of the cooking process, basically after the meat is done, so I can cook them just to the almost-tender state that I prefer.

I specify beef chuck for this recipe, but I’ve had it made with short ribs, as well. Leaving the bones on the short ribs also adds depth to the resulting gravy. Either way, it’s a very satisfying dish. Enjoy!

Beef Stew with Carrots and Polenta

Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 3 hrs 30 mins
Yields: 8 servings


  • 3 lbs. boneless beef chuck (not lean), cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 carrots, quartered
  • 2 celery ribs, quartered
  • 2 medium red onion, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle dry red wine (about 3 3/4 cups)
  • 2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
  • 8 thyme sprigs
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 5 cups vegetable stock or broth
  • 1-1/2 cups polenta (coarse cornmeal)


  1. Braise the beef: Preheat oven to 350°F with the rack in the middle.
  2. Pat beef dry and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy 4 - 6 quart pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Brown the meat, in batches, without crowding, turning to brown on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer to a platter or bowl.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium, then add the carrots, celery, onions, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 10 minutes.
  5. Push the vegetables to one side of the pot. Add the tomato paste to the cleared area. Cook and stir the paste for 2 minutes, then stir into the vegetables.
  6. Add the vinegar and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes.
  7. Stir in the wine, bay leaves, and thyme and boil until the wine is reduced by about two thirds, about 10 minutes.
  8. Add the broth and water to the pot along the beef and any juices from platter or bowl, and bring to a simmer. Cover and place in the oven to braise for 2 1/4 hours or until the meat is very tender.
  9. Place a large colander in a large bowl. Pour the stew into the colander. Return the pieces of meat to the pot. Discard the remaining solids and return the liquid to the pot.
  10. Add the carrots to the stew (make sure they are submerged) and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 30 minutes.
  11. Make the polenta: While the carrots are simmering, pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a large serving bowl and swirl to coat. Set aside.
  12. Place the vegetable stock and 1 teaspoon salt in a large, heavy saucepan or pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium-low and slowly add the polenta in a stream, stirring constantly. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the polenta thickens and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, around 15 minutes. Transfer to the oil-coated serving bowl and keep warm.
  13. Serve: Transfer the stew to a large serving bowl. Serve the stew over polenta in shallow pasta or soup bowls.

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